Political polarization and incivility manifested itself online throughout the 2016 US presidential election. The purpose of this paper is to understand how features of social media platforms (e.g. reacting, sharing) impacted the online public sphere during the 2016 election.
After conducting in-depth interviews with politically interested young people and applying deductive coding procedures to transcripts of the interviews, Dahlberg’s (2004) six normative conditions for the public sphere were used to empirically examine this interview data.
While some participants described strategies for productive political discussion on Social Networking Sites (SNS) and a willingness to use them to discuss politics, many users’ experiences largely fall short of Dahlberg’s (2004) normative criteria for the public sphere.
The period in which these interviews were conducted in could have contributed to a more pessimistic view of political discussion in general.
Scholars and the public should recognize that the affordances of SNS for political discussion are not distributed evenly between different platforms, both for the sake of empirical studies of SNS moving forward and the state of democratic deliberation.
Although previous research has examined online and SNS-based political discussion as it relates to the public sphere, few attempts have been made understand how specific communicative practices or platform-specific features of SNS have contributed to or detracted from a healthy public sphere.
Lorenzano, K.J., Sari, M., Storm, C.H., Rhodes, S. and Borah, P. (2018), "Challenges for an SNS-based public sphere in 2016", Online Information Review, Vol. 42 No. 7, pp. 1106-1123. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-12-2017-0352
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