Do Social Media Facilitate Political Learning? Social Media Use for News, Reasoning and Political Knowledge


  • Chang Sup Park Bloomusburg University of Pennsylvania


social media use for news, political talk, news reflection, political knowledge


This study examines how using different types of social media for news predicts political knowledge. Drawing on a national survey, the present study finds that blogs and Twitter are positive predictors of political issue knowledge, while Facebook and YouTube are not. Using blogs for news predicts political personalities and process knowledge, but using Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube for news does not. Additionally, the present study reveals that political talk offline and online reinforces the impact of social media use for news on political issue knowledge. 

Author Biography

Chang Sup Park, Bloomusburg University of Pennsylvania

Chang Sup Park is assistant professor of mass communications at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on social media, digital journalism, and civic engagement.


An, J., Quercia, D., & Crowcroft, J. (2013, May). Fragmented social media: a look into selective exposure to political news. In: Proceedings of the 22nd international conference on World Wide Web companion (pp. 51–52). International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee.

Ballew, M. T., Omoto, A. M. & Winter, P. L. (2015). Using Web 2.0 and Social Media Technologies to Foster Proenvironmental Action. Sustainability, 7, 10620–10648.

Barabas, J., Jerit, J., Pollock, W., & Rainey, C. (2014). The question (s) of political knowledge. American Political Science Review, 108(4), 840-855.

Baumgartner, J., & Morris, J. (2010). MyFaceTube politics: Social networking web sites and political engagement of young adults. Social Science Computer Review, 28(1), 24–44.

Benhabib, S. (1996). Toward a deliberative model of democratic legitimacy. In S. Benhabib (Ed.), Democracy and difference, (pp. 67–94). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Bernhardt, D., Krasa, S., & Polborn, M. (2008). Political polarization and the electoral effects of media bias. Journal of Public Economics, 92(5), 1092–1104.

Bode, L. (2015). Political news in the news feed: Learning politics from social media. Mass Communication and Society, 19(1), 24–48.

Boulianne, S. (2009). Does Internet use affect engagement? A meta-analysis of research. Political Communication, 26(2), 193–211.

Cappella, J. N., Price, V., & Nir, L. (2002). Argument repertoire as a reliable and valid measure of opinion quality: Electronic dialogue during campaign 2000. Political Communication, 19(1), 73–93.

Carlson, P. J. & Davis, G. B. (1998). An investigation of media selection among directors and managers: From “self” to “other” orientation. MIS Quarterly, 22(3), 335–362.

Carpini, M. X. D., & Keeter, S. (1996). What Americans know about politics and why it matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Chaffee, S. H., & Kanihan, S. F. (1997). Learning about politics from the mass media. Political communication, 14(4), 421–430.

Correa, T., Hinsley, A. W., & Gil De Zuniga, H. (2010). Who interacts on the Web? The intersection of users’ personality and social media use. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(2), 247–253.

Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1986). Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32(5), 554–571.

Dahlberg, L. (2001). Computer-Mediated Communication and the Public Sphere: A Critical Analysis. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 7(1).

Dahlgren, P. (2005). The Internet, public spheres, and political communication: Dispersion and deliberation. Political Communication, 22(2), 147–162.

Davis, R. (2009). Typing politics: The role of blogs in American politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

De Vreese, C. H., & Boomgaarden, H. (2006). News, political knowledge and participation: The differential effects of news media exposure on political knowledge and participation. Acta Politica, 41(4), 317–341.

Dimitrova, D. V., Shehata, A., Strömbäck, J., & Nord, L. W. (2014). The effects of digital media on political knowledge and participation in election campaigns: Evidence from panel data. Communication Research, 41(1), 95–118.

Dolan, K. (2011). Do women and men know different things? Measuring gender differences in political knowledge. The Journal of Politics, 73(1), 97-107.

Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210–230.

Eveland, W. P. (2001). The cognitive mediation model of learning from the news: Evidence from non-election, off-year election, and presidential election contexts. Communication Research, 28(5), 571–601.

Eveland, W. P. (2004). The effect of political discussion in producing informed citizens: The roles of information, motivation, and elaboration. Political Communication, 21(2), 177–193.

Eveland, W. P., Hayes, A. F., Shah, D. V., & Kwak, N. (2005). Understanding the relationship between communication and political knowledge: A model comparison approach using panel data. Political Communication, 22(4), 423–446.

Eveland, W. P., & Schmitt, J. B. (2015). Communication content and knowledge content matters: Integrating manipulation and observation in studying news and discussion learning effects. Journal of Communication, 65(1), 170–191.

Eveland, W. P., Shah, D. V., & Kwak, N. (2003). Assessing causality: A panel study of motivations, information processing and learning during campaign 2000. Communication Research, 30(4), 359–386.

Eveland, W. P., & Thomson, T. (2006). Is it talking, thinking, or both? A lagged dependent variable model of discussion effects on political knowledge. Journal of Communication, 56(3), 523–542.

Fenton, N., & Barassi, V. (2011). Alternative media and social networking sites: The politics of individuation and political participation. The Communication Review, 14(3), 179–196.

Fenwick, T., & Farrell, L. (Eds.). (2011). Knowledge mobilization and educational research: politics, languages and responsibilities. New York: Routledge.

Foot, K., & Schneider, S. M. (2006). Web Campaigning (Acting with Technology). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Galston, W. A. (2001). Political knowledge, political engagement, and civic education. Annual Review of Political Science, 4(1), 217–234.

Gil de Zúñiga, H., Molyneux, L., & Zheng, P. (2014). Social media, political expression, and political participation: Panel analysis of lagged and concurrent relationships. Journal of Communication, 64(4), 612–634.

Global Web Index. (2015). GlobalWebIndex’s quarterly report on the latest trends in social networking. Retrieved from

Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380.

Gunter, B., Campbell, V., Touri, M., & Gibson, R. (2009). Blogs, news and credibility. Aslib Proceedings, 61(2), 185–204

Habermas, J. (1984). The theory of communicative action (Vol. I). Boston, MA: Beacon.

Hinsz, V. B., Tindale, R. S., & Vollrath, D. A. (1997). The emerging conceptualization of groups as information processors. Psychological Bulletin, 121(1), 43–64.

Hirst, W., & Echterhoff, G. (2012). Remembering in conversations: The social sharing and reshaping of memories. Psychology, 63(1), 55–79.

Hovland, C. I., Janis, I. L., & Kelley, H. H. (1953). Communications and persuasion: Psychological studies in opinion change. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Jung, N., Kim, Y., & Gil de Zúniga, H. (2011). The mediating role of knowledge and efficacy in the effects of communication on political participation. Mass Communication & Society, 14(4), 407–430.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2011). The early bird catches the news: Nine things you should know about micro-blogging. Business Horizons, 54(2), 105–113.

Kim, J., Wyatt, R. O., & Katz, E. (1999). News, talk, opinion, participation: The part played by conversation in deliberative democracy. Political Communication, 16(4), 361–385.

Kiousis, S. (2001). Public trust or mistrust? Perceptions of media credibility in the information age. Mass Communication & Society, 4(4), 381–403.

Korea Election Management Commission. (2014). The distribution of the electorate. Retrieved from

Kunovich, R. M. (2013). Political knowledge in Poland. Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 46(1), 65-78.

Kushin, M. J., & Yamamoto, M. (2010). Did social media really matter? College students' use of online media and political decision making in the 2008 election. Mass Communication & Society, 13(5), 608–630.

Lakoff, S. A. (1971). Knowledge, power, and democratic theory. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 394(1), 4–12.

Lee, J. K., Choi, J., Kim, C., & Kim, Y. (2014). Social media, network heterogeneity, and opinion polarization. Journal of Communication, 64(4), 702–722.

Luskin, R. C. (1990). Explaining Political Sophistication. Political Behavior, 12(4), 331–361.

McLeod, J. M., Scheufele, D. A., Moy, P., Horowitz, E. M., Holbert, R. L., Zhang, W., et al. (1999). Understanding deliberation: The effects of discussion networks on participation in a public forum. Communication Research, 26(6), 743–774.

Murphy, D. A., Durako, S., Muenz, L. R., & Wilson, C. M. (2000). Marijuana use among HIV-positive and high-risk adolescents: a comparison of self-report through audio computer-assisted self-administered interviewing and urinalysis. American Journal of Epidemiology, 152(9), 805–813.

Mutz, D. C. (2006). Hearing the other side: Deliberative versus participatory democracy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Newman, D. R. (1995). A content analysis method to measure critical thinking in face-to-face and computer supported group learning. Interpersonal Computing and Technology, 3(2), 56–77.

Paskey, J. A. (2001). Survey Compares 2 Canadian MBA Programs, One Online and One Traditional. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Pew Research Center. (2015, July 14). The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook.

Pew Research Center. (2014, October 21). Social Media, Political News and Ideology.

Popkin, S. L., & Dimock, M. A. (1999). Political knowledge and citizen competence. In: S.L. Elkin and K.E. Soltan (Eds.), Citizen competence and democratic institutions (pp. 117–146). College Park, PA: Penn State Press.

Price, V., & Cappella, J. N. (2002). Online deliberation and its influence: The electronic dialogue project in campaign 2000. IT & Society, 1(1), 303–329.

Rajaram, S., & Pereira-Pasarin, L. P. (2007). Collaboration can improve individual recognition memory: Evidence from immediate and delayed tests. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14(1), 95–100.

Ricke, L. D. (2014). The Impact of YouTube on US Politics. London, UK: Lexington Books.

Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2007). Assessing social presence in asynchronous text-based computer conferencing. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education, 14(2), 50–71.

Scheufele, D. A. (2002). Examining differential gains from mass media and their implications for participatory behavior. Communication Research, 29(1), 46–65.

Schmierbach, M., & Oeldorf-Hirsch, A. (2012). A little bird told me, so I didn't believe it: Twitter, credibility, and issue perceptions. Communication Quarterly, 60(3), 317–337.

Shah, D. V. (2016). Conversation is the soul of democracy: Expression effects, communication mediation, and digital media. Communication and the Public, 1(1), 12–18.

Shah, D. V., Cho, J., Nah, S., Gotlieb, M. R., Hwang, H., Lee, N. -J., et al. (2007). Campaign ads, online messaging, and participation: Extending the communication mediation model. Journal of Communication, 57(4), 676–703.

Somini, S. (2012, November 12). Facebook’s false faces undermine its credibility. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Southwell, B. G., & Yzer, M. C. (2007). The roles of interpersonal communication in mass media campaigns. In C. Beck (Ed.), Communication Yearbook 31 (pp. 420–462). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Stephens, M., Yoo, J., Mourao, R. R., Vu, H. T., Baresch, B., & Johnson, T. J. (2014). How app are people to use smartphones, search engines, and social media for news? examining information acquisition tools and their influence on political knowledge and voting. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 11(4), 383-396.

Strabac, Z., & Aalberg, T. (2011). Measuring political knowledge in telephone and web surveys: a cross-national comparison. Social Science Computer Review, 29(2), 175-192.

Stromer‐Galley, J., & Foot, K. A. (2002). Citizen perceptions of online interactivity and implications for political campaign communication. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 8(1).

Tsfati, Y. (2003). Media skepticism and climate of opinion perception. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 15(1), 65–82.

Underwood, J., & Pezdek, K. (1998). Memory suggestibility as an example of the sleeper effect. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 5(3), 449–453

Walston, J. T., & Lissitz, R. W. (2000). Computer-mediated focus groups. Evaluation Review, 24(5), 457–483.

Watts, W. A., & McGuire, W. J. (1964). Persistence of induced opinion change and retention of the inducing message contents. Journal of Abnormal & Social Psychology, 68(3), 233–241.

Zhang, J., Qu, Y., Cody, J., & Wu, Y. (2010, April). A case study of micro-blogging in the enterprise: use, value, and related issues. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 123–132). ACM.