Data from the Pew Research Journalism Project shows that conservatives are less likely to have their views challenged on social media — but liberals are more likely to block or unfriend someone online because they disagree with something they have posted.
Those that Pew describes as "consistent conservatives" are twice as likely as the average Facebook user to say that posts about politics on the social network are "mostly or always" in line with their own views, according to a survey the organization performed this spring — with 47 percent saying their views dominate the conversations they see.
Of those identified as "mostly conservative," 28 percent agreed with the sentiment vs. 32 percent of "consistently liberals" and just 13 percent of "mostly liberal" users. This suggests that liberals see a wider range of views on social media than their conservative counterparts.
However, that doesn't mean liberals necessarily like all of the ideas they see. Consistent liberals were the most likely group to block or unfriend someone because they disagreed with their political postings, with 44 percent saying they had "hidden, blocked, defriended, or stopped following someone" on Facebook due to their political postings. Only roughly one-third (31 percent) of consistent conservatives had done the same -- although this might be attributable to lower levels of ideological diversity in their online ecosystem.
And that conservative echochamber isn't limited to conservatives' online interactions: It's a reflection of the lack of ideological diversity in their real life relationships. Two-thirds of consistent conservatives told Pew that most of their close friends share their views on government and politics, compared to just over half, or 52 percent, of consistent liberals. For mostly conservatives, 42 percent of their close friends have the same views, while just 26 percent of mostly liberals respondents who said the same.
Liberals were also more likely to drop a friend in real life over politics. Nearly a quarter, or 24 percent, of consistent liberals told Pew that have stopped talking to or being friends with someone over politics, compared to 16 percent of consistent conservatives.
So as with many cases, our online interactions about politics don't necessarily represent an entirely new pattern of interactions -- but rather an extension of existing dynamics into the digital realm.