Country: United States (Virginia)
Jaime Settle, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the College of William & Mary. She is a scholar of American political behavior, interested in understanding the way that the American public experiences politics on a day-to-day basis. More specifically, her research focuses on how political interactions—in both face-to-face and online contexts—affect the way individuals perceive conflict in their environment, evaluate other people, and engage within the political system. She use the core methodological tools employed in our discipline, but she is also interested in integrating tools from other disciplines—such as behavior genetics and psychophysiology—to inform our approach in understanding key questions within political science. Her book, Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. In it, she argues that in the context of increasing partisan polarization among American political elites, the way we communicate on Facebook uniquely facilitates psychological polarization among the American public. The inherent features of Facebook, paired with the norms of how people use the site, heighten awareness of political identity, bias the inferences people make about others’ political views, and foster stereotyped evaluations of the political out-group. Her updated CV is available here.
Networks And Politics
Text as Data
Recent genopolitics and political psychology research suggests individuals' biological differences influence political participation. The interaction between individual differences and environments has received less attention, not least because of the confound of self‐selection into environments. To test the interaction between innate predispositions and an exogenous environmental influence, we conducted a field experiment during the 2010 California midterm elections. We randomly assigned subjects to receive a postcard mobilization treatment designed to induce an emotional response to the degree of political contention in the election. We tested the possibility that subjects who are genetically predisposed toward negative affectivity will be less likely to vote after treatment exposure. To our knowledge, this is the first field experiment in political science to measure genetic moderation of a treatment, and it suggests experimental approaches can benefit from the inclusion of genetically and other biologically informative covariates.
How does living in a battleground state during a presidential election affect an individual’s political engagement? We utilize a unique collection of 113 million Facebook status updates to compare users’ political discussion during the 2008 election. “Battleground” state users are significantly more likely to discuss politics in the campaign season than are users in uncompetitive “blackout” states. Posting a political status update—a form of day-to-day engagement with politics—mediates ∼20 percent of the relationship between exposure to political competition and self-reported voter turnout. This paper is among the first to use a massive quantity of social media data to explain the microfoundations of how people think, feel, and act on a daily basis in response to their political environment.
Individuals do not always express their private political opinions in front of others who disagree. Neither political scientists nor psychologists have been able to firmly establish why this behavior occurs. Previous research has explored, at length, social influence on political attitudes and persuasion. However, the concept of conformity does not involve attitude change or persuasion; it more accurately involves self-censoring to match a socially desirable norm. In an effort to improve our understanding of this behavior, we conduct two experiments to investigate perceptions and behavioral responses to contentious political interactions. Study 1 asked participants to predict how a hypothetical character would respond to a variety of political interactions among coworkers. In Study 2, participants discussed political issues with confederates who were scripted to disagree with them. The studies reveal that individuals are uncomfortable around political interactions in which they hold an opinion counter to the group. Participants both expected a hypothetical character to conform in Study 1 and actually conformed themselves in the lab session in Study 2.
Human behaviour is thought to spread through face-to-face social networks, but it is difficult to identify social influence effects in observational studies, and it is unknown whether online social networks operate in the same way. Here we report results from a randomized controlled trial of political mobilization messages delivered to 61 million Facebook users during the 2010 US congressional elections. The results show that the messages directly influenced political self-expression, information seeking and real-world voting behaviour of millions of people. Furthermore, the messages not only influenced the users who received them but also the users’ friends, and friends of friends. The effect of social transmission on real-world voting was greater than the direct effect of the messages themselves, and nearly all the transmission occurred between ‘close friends’ who were more likely to have a face-to-face relationship. These results suggest that strong ties are instrumental for spreading both online and real-world behaviour in human social networks.
Why do Americans have such animosity for people who identify with the opposing political party? In this book, the author argues that in the context of increasing partisan polarization among American political elites, the way we communicate on Facebook uniquely facilitates psychological polarization among the American public. Frenemies introduces the END Framework of social media interaction. END refers to a subset of content that circulates in a social media ecosystem: a personalized, quantified blend of politically informative expression, news, and discussion seamlessly interwoven into a wider variety of socially informative content. Scrolling through the News Feed triggers a cascade of processes that result in negative attitudes about those who disagree with us politically. The inherent features of Facebook, paired with the norms of how people use the site, heighten awareness of political identity, bias the inferences people make about others’ political views, and foster stereotyped evaluations of the political out-group.
Online politics and social media are being blamed for a lot lately, from the spread of misinformation to the rise of incivility. But we also want online media to reach young people and increase participation. Although early studies showed limited effects, the latest efforts show the online world is impacting the offline. Jamie Settle finds that Facebook increases our negative views of the other party--not because we talk a lot about politics, but because we think lots of social media posts reveal our friends’ politics and come to see them as caricatures. Katherine Haenschen finds that online banner and video ads can encourage young people to vote in local elections, perhaps reaching new voters. Online media has benefits and risks for our politics. Studies: “Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America” and “Mobilizing Millennial Voters with Targeted Internet Advertisements.” Interviews: Jamie Settle, William and Mary; Katherine Haenschen, Virginia Tech
"Finding Kale Eating Conservatives" on a program titled "The Face of Fake News."
Politics at the Table How can you get through Thanksgiving in these political times? What will it take to avoid fights over the midterms, or Trump, or whatever Robert Mueller is going to do next? Cathy and her guests will help you maintain composure. Give us a call and share your tips (and complaints) at 1-800-940-2240 or 757-440-2665.
Discussion about the stress of politics.
Profile on Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America
Profile on Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America
WHY FACEBOOK MAKES AMERICANS FEEL POLITICALLY POLARIZED By Equating Political and Social Identities, the Platform Makes Our Divides Feel Unbridgeable
Charting a Course for Research of Social Media Polarization. Jaime Settle, a member of the SSRC Media & Democracy program’s advisory board, discusses her new book in the latest contribution to Democracy Papers. In Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America, she takes a deep look at how political information spreads on social media, emphasizing the importance of seemingly unpolitical posts and of exposure to the political opinions of people with whom we share only weak social ties.
[Im]Polite Conversation: Understanding the Mechanisms for Disengagement from Contentious Political Interactions. This post is one of a series of by MPSA members about their Federally-funded research. Here, Jaime Settle and Taylor Carlson summarize their NSF-funded research “Understanding the Mechanisms for Disengagement from Contentious Political Interaction.”
Political scientists have been trying to understand how political campaigns affect voter turnout for decades. Now, with the rise and ubiquity of social media platforms such as Facebook, those who study political campaigns have access to a new and potentially vast data source on voters’ intentions. In new research, Jaime Settle analyses over 100 million Facebook updates, finding that 1.3 percent more users in battleground states posted status updates about politics, and that this increased their likelihood of voting by nearly 40 percent.