Professor Brendan Nyhan and the "Like-Minded Sources" on Social Media

Professor Brendan Nyhan, a member of the Steering Committee of the Program in Quantitative Social Science (QSS) and Professor of Government at Dartmouth College, recently co-authored a publication in Nature about a study on Facebook feeds and "like-minded sources" during the 2020 presidential election. The article, titled "Like-minded sources on Facebook are prevalent but not polarizing," is available online.

The abstract of the article is as follows:

Many critics raise concerns about the prevalence of 'echo chambers' on social media and their potential role in increasing political polarization. However, the lack of available data and the challenges of conducting large-scale field experiments have made it difficult to assess the scope of the problem1,2. Here we present data from 2020 for the entire population of active adult Facebook users in the USA showing that content from 'like-minded' sources constitutes the majority of what people see on the platform, although political information and news represent only a small fraction of these exposures. To evaluate a potential response to concerns about the effects of echo chambers, we conducted a multi-wave field experiment on Facebook among 23,377 users for whom we reduced exposure to content from like-minded sources during the 2020 US presidential election by about one-third. We found that the intervention increased their exposure to content from cross-cutting sources and decreased exposure to uncivil language, but had no measurable effects on eight preregistered attitudinal measures such as affective polarization, ideological extremity, candidate evaluations and belief in false claims. These precisely estimated results suggest that although exposure to content from like-minded sources on social media is common, reducing its prevalence during the 2020 US presidential election did not correspondingly reduce polarization in beliefs or attitudes.

Read the Dartmouth Article here: Researchers Examine 'Like-Minded Sources' on Social Media
Read the NBC news article here: Facebook opened its doors to researchers. What they found paints a complicated picture of social media and echo chambers.