Polarizing Politics: Arizona Democrats are more likely to provoke on social media than other voters, reveals study

  • The poll results were evenly split among the main parties nationally.
  • Surprisingly, independent voters in Vermont are the most likely to to provoke on social media. 

Internet trolling is now mainstream and in fact, accessible, form of political discourse. Given its ability to reach a huge global audience in a mere matter of minutes, controversial posts about politics can quickly go viral… Whether it’s an unflattering screenshot from a newsclip; a critique on their fake tan gone wrong, or a word fumble, there are plenty posts about politics constantly circulating online. Some social media users choose to post about politics as a means of expressing their views, however, others post inciting content specifically to bait those with opposing views into arguing on a certain topic. Many internet users have a modern-day human tendency to be attracted to drama – for example: scrolling through the endless stream of strangers arguing in the comments section underneath political Facebook posts… Therefore, political posts on social media are far more likely to go viral if they’re negative. In fact, a Cambridge University study found that social media posts about opposing politicians are twice as likely to go viral if they’re negative, as compared to if they were more positive in tone.

Redact.dev, a unique software that allows you to scan your social media history and automatically remove any contentious posts, conducted a survey of 5,502 social media users who identify as Democrats, Republicans or independents, to find out whether they knowingly post polarizing content about politics with the explicit intention to incite a reaction from other users with opposing views. Surprisingly, and despite frequent accusations from each side over the years, the survey revealed that voters who identify as Democrats (12%), Republicans (11%) or independents (11%), are almost as equally likely to bait each other on social media. 

These responses varied across states, however. Seventeen percent of Democrats in Arizona admit to posting provocatively on social media with the explicit intention of inciting a reaction, compared to 11% of independents and 10% who identify as Republican. 

Interactive map showing which political party’s voters are more likely to share provoking posts (click on ’embed’ to host on your site)

“When it comes to political content and social media, it can be a slippery slope to go down in terms of what you, as a user, decide to post; especially if you have an account that is currently public, or has been public in the past,’ says a spokesperson for Redact.dev. ‘The posting and commenting system on Facebook, for example, is meant to be the digital equivalent of sitting around a table with a group of your friends. The reality, however, is that anything you say here gets amplified by algorithms and reached by a far greater number of people, some of whom might not agree with what you’ve said.’

Why you should think twice before posting politics online:

1. Freedom of speech vs. getting fired.
While the internet gives us a platform to express freedom of speech, it’s important to remember your posts can have implications in terms of your job if you’re not careful.

2. Be careful when applying for new jobs.
Remember your full name is available for recruiters to view on your resume. It’s a quick few buttons to click before they could find your social media profiles, especially if they’re public profiles. If there are controversial posts on your platforms, you could miss out on that dream job.

3. There’s a good chance some will disagree with your opinion.
Don’t forget that there are different sides to every topic and chances are, some people will disagree with what you have to say. If you’re not prepared to handle the opposing comments and arguments from other internet users, it could be a good idea to avoid posting.

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