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No One Cares What You Like: An investigation of how ‘likes’ associated with legitimate news articles published on Facebook does not influence public opinion on political topics

by Thatcher, Helena

Abstract

Click, Read, Like: How influential are these three common steps? At 6:36 AM on September 27, 2017 @realDonalTrump tweeted “Facebook was always anti- Trump. The Networks were always anti-Trump hence, Fake News, @nytimes (apologized) & @WaPO were anti-Trump. Collusion?1” 65,019 people ‘liked’ and 43,300 were ‘talking’ about this tweet. At 3:38 PM Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded in a Facebook post: “Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like...We will continue to work to build a community for all people.”2 Click, read, like: three effortless steps that could alter individual’s political opinions. In the era of the Internet, a person’s voice has evolved beyond face-to-face social interactions. Social media sites now offer an alternative web-based social network that allows users to select a group of “friends” that have access to the content they post. Armed with a computer and an email address, an individual can log onto any social media site. Within several clicks, he has an internet profile, and a voice on the Internet. Every friend he “accepts,” each news article he “likes,” and any comment he “shares” might influence the “community for all people” that Mark Zuckerberg is cultivating. Seven months prior to the 2016 Presidential Elections, I took up the question of whether web- based social networks, specifically Facebook, could provoke a majority opinion with enough influence to change an individual user’s political opinion. A multi-method approach (experiment, survey, and interview) yielded one finding: As a respondent’s tendency toward individualism increased, their likelihood to conform to the majority opinion of their web-based social network decreased, (p = 0.038).3 There was not enough evidence to indicate a relationship between the homogeneity of a user’s Facebook friends’ political opinions (IV1), exposure to politics within the user’s web-based social network (IV2), and the user’s tendency to conform to the majority opinion (DV). Nearly two years after the 2016 Presidential Election, and in the midst of what pundits and scholars deem “the Social Media Presidency,” I am reinvestigating whether exposure to an individual’s close ties’ media consumption (IV), affect that individual’s political opinions (DV). Specifically, this paper will investigate CNN’s political Facebook news articles with visible social cues’ (# of ‘friends’ vs. ‘others’ that ‘liked’ the article) effect on user’s opinions of hot button political topics. 4

Note

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Includes bibliographical references.

Administrative Notes

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Copyright
Copyright restrictions apply.
Publisher
Colorado College Tutt Library
PID
coccc:30037
Digital Origin
born digital
Extent
: illustrations
Thesis
Senior Thesis -- Colorado College
Thesis Advisor
Elizabeth Coggins
Department/Program
Political Science
Degree Name
Bachelor of Arts
Degree Type
bachelor
Degree Grantor
Colorado College Tutt Library
Date Issued
2018-05