The role of social media in polarization of viewpoints towards climate change
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The purpose of this research was to determine the role that social network sites play in the polarizing of viewpoints regarding climate change. To measure this, I surveyed participants about their initial perceptions of climate change's harmfulness. I then introduced these respondents to replicated Facebook News Feeds containing posts that were either homogeneously pro-climate, homogeneously anti-climate, or an equal mix of both viewpoints, before surveying them once more on their perceptions about climate change's harmfulness. For initially anti-climate respondents, my findings revealed an ideological backfire effect after exposure to a homogeneously pro-climate Facebook News Feed, compared to the control; this backfire effect grew in strength in accordance with the intensity of the respondents' initial anti-climate beliefs. My findings may be useful in the development of effective social media campaigns focusing on issues related to climate change, and may help in engineering strategies to make discourse less polarized in the future.