Political Isolation in America


This study documents historical trends of size and political diversity in Americans’ discussion networks, which are often seen as important barometers of social and political health. Contrasting findings from data drawn out of a nationally representative survey experiment of 1,055 Americans during the contentious 2016 U.S. presidential election to data arising from 11 national data sets covering nearly three decades, we find that Americans’ core networks are significantly smaller and more politically homogeneous than at any other period. Several methodological artifacts seem unlikely to account for the effect. We show that in this period, more than before, “important matters” were often framed as political matters, and that this association probably accounts for the smaller networks.

Network Science 8(3): 333-355.