Political Social Media Posts Can Actually Change People's Views, New Report Says

The Pew Research Center found that one in five people have changed their views on issues or candidates because of social media posts.

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Complex Original

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Social media has been a big factor this election. Trolls have used it to spread misinformation. A Texas priest used it to livestream an aborted fetus and encourage people to vote for Trump. Trump, whose Twitter presence has been huge this election, is apparently no longer allowed to tweet for himself—a lesson he should've probably learned after the Clinton campaign account fired him up on Twitter. And, of course, your personal TL is probably filled with non-stop election hot takes too. It turns out, though, that your political rants on Facebook might be making a difference after all.

According to the Pew Research Center, 20 percent of social media users—one in five—say they've changed their stance on a social or political issues because of stuff they've seen on social media. Regarding specific political candidates, 17 percent say social media has changed their views. 

Which issues or candidates did social media affect the most?

20% of social media users say social media helped shift their views about a political or social issue @pewresearch https://t.co/9yZkyPXPgj pic.twitter.com/mQL1lkHPj6

— Monica Anderson (@MonicaRAnders) November 8, 2016

Regarding candidates, 21 percent of social media users said they've changed their minds about Hillary Clinton, and 18 percent changed their minds about Donald Trump. Only eight percent of users said social media helped change their views on Bernie Sanders, though. But those changes are almost always negative. Of those who changed their minds about Clinton, 24 percent said their opinion changed for the worse compared to seven percent whose opinion moved in a positive direction. Those who changed their stances on Trump because of social media were five times as likely to say their opinion was more negative (19 percent) rather than positive (four percent).

Regarding issues, 13 percent changed their views of racial issues/Black Lives Matter/police brutality because of social media; six percent changed their stances on gun control/gun rights; three percent on gay rights and two percent on immigration. 

Democrats, and especially liberal Democrats, are more likely than Republicans to have changed their views because of social media.

With that said, 82 percent of social media users have never changed their views on a specific candidate because of social media, and 79 percent haven't changed their views on an issue.

Back in 2012, the Pew Research Center found that 16 percent of social media users had changed their views about a political issue because of social media.

But maybe that shouldn't be surprising. Partisanship is especially divisive and polarized right now—to an extent that hasn't been seen before, according to the Pew Research Center. And another report from the Pew Research Center found that over one-third of social media users are worn out by political posts and "more than half describe their online interactions with those they disagree with politically as stressful and frustrating." In fact, nearly four in 10 have tried to block political content from other users. 

In the end, it looks like your political rants on social media could change some minds after all—or they could get you blocked.

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