Diversity of Political Conversation on the Internet: Users’ Perspectives

Stromer-Galley, Jennifer
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

This essay provides an account of the perspectives of users of online political discussion spaces. In-depth interviews with 69 people who participate in online political discussion groups were conducted. The interviews suggest that they perceive themselves to be interacting with persons who differ from them. They appreciate and enjoy the diversity of people and opinions they encounter online. Although some interview participants expressed dislike at encountering racist or xenophobic perspectives, others appreciated the broad range of opinions they encountered. These findings lend support to the view that people appreciate the diversity of persons and viewpoints they encounter in their chosen discussion spaces. Information provided by interviewees did not offer much support for the homophily perspective–that people seek out like-minded others online–which raises questions about the accuracy of that perspective in characterizing people's online communication behavior.