Demo­cratic women least tol­er­ant of so­cial-me­dia dis­sent

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY BRAD­FORD RICHARD­SON

A sur­vey shows a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Demo­cratic women are re­act­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton’s un­ex­pected elec­tion loss by block­ing, “un­fol­low­ing” and “un­friend­ing” peo­ple on so­cial me­dia who ex­press po­lit­i­cal opin­ions they don’t like.

Thirty per­cent of Demo­cratic women re­ported cut­ting off on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tion with some­one for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons since the Nov. 8 elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to a Pub­lic Re­li­gion Re­search In­sti­tute poll pub­lished Mon­day. They are more than twice as likely to blot out dis­sent­ing points of view from their so­cial me­dia time­lines as Demo­cratic men, who re­ported do­ing so at a 14 per­cent rate.

Rachel Alexan­der, se­nior ed­i­tor of The Stream news web­site, said lib­eral women were more in­vested in elect­ing the first fe­male pres­i­dent and, there­fore, are less tol­er­ant of op­pos­ing points of view in the af­ter­math of Mrs. Clin­ton’s stun­ning de­feat.

“Hil­lary’s slo­gan, ‘ I’m With Her,’ was all about, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me,’” Ms. Alexan­der said. “That’s es­sen­tially what it was say­ing. So I think Hil­lary pushed all of these women into think­ing we’ve got to elect the first woman pres­i­dent.”

The sur­vey found Repub­li­cans have been more tol­er­ant of op­pos­ing points of view since Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion vic­tory. Just 10 per­cent of Repub­li­can women and 8 per­cent of Repub­li­can men re­ported un­friend­ing peo­ple on so­cial me­dia for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

Over­all, 24 per­cent of Democrats said they have used “block,” “un­fol­low” and “un­friend” icons to deal with dis­sent­ing view­points since Elec­tion Day, com­pared with 9 per­cent of Repub­li­cans and 9 per­cent of in­de­pen­dents, the sur­vey found.

Those who self-iden­ti­fied as po­lit­i­cally lib­eral were even less tol­er­ant of opin­ions that strayed from their pre­con­ceived no­tions, with 28 per­cent ac­knowl­edg­ing that they had shunned at least one on­line po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­sary, com­pared with 11 per­cent of self-iden­ti­fied mod­er­ates and 8 per­cent of self-iden­ti­fied con­ser­va­tives.

Shawn Mitchell, a for­mer Repub­li­can state se­na­tor from Colorado who is out­spo­ken about his po­lit­i­cal be­liefs on Face­book, said the sur­vey re­sults are con­sis­tent with his po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ac­tions on so­cial me­dia since the gen­eral elec­tion.

“That’s kind of funny,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Mostly it was guys ar­gu­ing dur­ing the pri­mary sea­son, but since the elec­tion, it’s been a lib­eral woman who threat­ened to un­friend me and hasn’t done so yet, and one of her lib­eral friends, who is also fe­male, that blocked me while we were de­bat­ing the mer­its of the elec­tion.”

He said the dis­par­ity be­tween lib­eral men and women makes sense given their com­par­a­tive com­mit­ment to Mrs. Clin­ton’s cam­paign.

“It sounds log­i­cal,” Mr. Mitchell said. “But lib­er­als are also gen­er­ally more likely to block friends on so­cial me­dia than con­ser­va­tives are.”

The PRRI poll is one of sev­eral in­di­ca­tions that this year’s pres­i­den­tial race had a par­tic­u­larly in­ju­ri­ous ef­fect on friend­ships and even mar­riages be­tween those who hold op­pos­ing po­lit­i­cal be­liefs.

A Mon­mouth Univer­sity poll in Septem­ber found that 7 per­cent of re­spon­dents had ended their friend­ships over the pres­i­den­tial race. Fully 70 per­cent of Amer­i­cans said the elec­tion had brought out the worst in peo­ple, com­pared with 4 per­cent who said it had brought out the best.

A Pew Re­search Cen­ter sur­vey pub­lished in Oc­to­ber also found that, among spouses who dis­agreed about the gen­eral elec­tion, 41 per­cent re­ported ar­gu­ing over the can­di­dates.

“Ev­ery­body felt strongly this cy­cle,” Mr. Mitchell said. “With the stakes on both sides, Trump’s un­con­ven­tional can­di­dacy and his brash, in­sult­ing man­ner, peo­ple re­acted to him in a way that isn’t typ­i­cal of pol­i­tics be­cause he pre­sented in a way that’s not typ­i­cal of pol­i­tics.”

Un­der­scor­ing the an­i­mos­ity be­tween po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries this elec­tion cy­cle is the preva­lence of so­cial me­dia, Mr. Mitchell said. In ad­di­tion to al­low­ing a never-end­ing stream of in­stan­ta­neous re­ac­tions to po­lit­i­cally charged events, plat­forms such as Face­book and Twit­ter do not al­low for the sort of face-to-face in­ter­ac­tion that cur­tails prej­u­dice and elic­its sym­pa­thy for those with whom we dis­agree, he said.

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