Who Doesn’t Want to Hear the Other Side’s View?

People with left-wing/liberal views are more likely to block or unfriend their ideological counterparts than those with right-wing/conservative views

The day after the 2015 UK General Election, Rebecca Roache––who is now a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Royal Holloway––wrote a blog post entitled, ‘If you’re a Conservative, I’m not your friend’. She began her blog post with the following statement:

One of the first things I did after seeing the depressing election news this morning was check to see which of my Facebook friends ‘like’ the pages of the Conservatives or David Cameron, and unfriend them. (Thankfully, none of my friends ‘like’ the UKIP page.)

Was Ms Roache’s decision an isolated incident, or was it part of a more general tendency for people with left-wing/liberal views to block or unfriend their ideological counterparts? In an attempt to answer this question, I tracked down as many relevant surveys and polls as I could. The results are presented below.

In 2012, Pew Research found that liberals were more likely than conservatives to have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone they disagreed with on social networking sites.

In 2014, YouGov found that Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters were much more likely to say they would find it harder to be friends with someone who became a UKIP supporter than vice versa.

In 2014, Pew Research replicated their 2012 result, finding that consistent liberals were more likely than conservatives to have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone they disagreed with on Facebook.

In 2015, StatsSocial found that right-wing twitter users were more likely to follow left-wing pundits than vice versa. On average, 34% of users following the top 50 left-wing pundits were right-wing, whereas only 26% of users following the top 50 right-wing pundits were left-wing.

In 2016, the Public Religion Research Institute found that Democrats were more likely than Republicans to have blocked, unfriended or stopped following someone they disagreed with on social networking sites.

In 2016, Demos found that Conservative supporters were slightly more likely to have retweeted Labour or SNP supporters than vice versa. However, they also found that UKIP supporters were no more likely to have retweeted Labour or SNP supporters than vice versa.

In 2016, YouGov found that Conservative supporters were less likely to say they would be upset if their child married someone who supported Labour, and that Republicans were less likely to say they would be upset if their child married a Democrat.

In 2017, Pew Research found that Democrats were much more likely to say that a friend voting for Trump would put a strain on their friendship than Republicans were to say that a friend voting for Hillary Clinton would put a strain on their friendship.

In 2017, The Dartmouth (a college newspaper) found that Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to say they would be uncomfortable having a roommate with opposing political views to their own.

Finally, in 2017, The Cato institute found that Hillary Clinton voters were much more likely to say they would find it hard to be friends with a Donald Trump voter than vice versa.

Overall, there seems to be pretty consistent evidence that Ms Roache’s decision was not an isolated incident. Of course, it might simply be that people with left-wing/liberal views are more willing to admit to disengaging from their ideological opponents.

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