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Bursting the filter bubble: the mediating effect of discussion frequency on network heterogeneity

Nadine Strauß (Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)
Laura Alonso-Muñoz (Department of Communication Sciences, Universitat Jaume I, Castelló, Spain)
Homero Gil de Zúñiga (Department of Political Science, University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain) (Department of Film Production and Media Studies, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, USA) (Facultad de Comunicación y Letras Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 14 July 2020

Issue publication date: 23 October 2020




The purpose of this study is to identify the structural processes that lead citizens to escape their common social circles when talking about politics and public affairs (e.g. “filter bubbles”). To do so, this study tests to what extent political attitudes, political behavior, news media consumption and discussion frequency affect discussion network heterogeneity among US citizens.


Supported by the polling group Nielsen, this study uses a two-wave panel online survey to study the antecedents and mechanisms of discussion network heterogeneity among US citizens. To test the hypotheses and answer the research questions, ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions (cross-sectional, lagged and autoregressive) and mediation analyses were conducted.


The findings imply that political discussion frequency functions as the key element in explaining the mechanism that leads politically interested and participatory citizens (online) as well as news consumers of traditional and online media to seek a more heterogeneous discussion network, disrupting the so-called “filter bubbles.” However, mediation analyses also showed that discussion frequency can lead to more homogenous discussion networks if people score high on political knowledge, possibly reflecting the formation of a close network of political-savvy individuals.


The survey data give important insights into the 2016 pre-election situation, trying to explain why US citizens were more likely to remain in homogenous discussion networks when talking about politics and public affairs. By using two-wave panel data, the analyses allow to draw tentative conclusions about the influential and inhibiting factors and mechanisms that lead individuals to seek/avoid a more heterogeneous discussion network.



Strauß, N., Alonso-Muñoz, L. and Gil de Zúñiga, H. (2020), "Bursting the filter bubble: the mediating effect of discussion frequency on network heterogeneity", Online Information Review, Vol. 44 No. 6, pp. 1161-1181.



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