From Respondents to Networks: Bridging Between Individuals, Discussants, and the Network in the Study of Political Discussion


Much of our understanding of social influence in individual political behavior stems from representative surveys asking respondents to identify characteristics of a small number of people they talk to most frequently. By focusing only on these few close contacts, we have implicitly assumed that less-intimate associates and features of network structure hold little influence over others’ attitudes and behavior. We test these assumptions with a survey that attempted to interview all students at a small university during a highly-salient municipal election. By focusing on a small, well-defined community, we are able to explore the relationship between individuals, their close associates, and also less-immediate associates. We are also able to explore features of network structure unobtainable in representative samples. We demonstrate that these less-immediate associates and network features have the potential to exert important influence that conventional survey approaches would miss.

Political Behavior