A test of the spiral of silence theory on young adults' use of social networking sites for political purposes

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2011-01-01
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Chen, Kuan-ju
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Eric Abbott
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Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication offers two majors: Advertising (instructing students in applied communication for work in business or industry), and Journalism and Mass Communication (instructing students in various aspects of news and information organizing, writing, editing, and presentation on various topics and in various platforms). The Department of Agricultural Journalism was formed in 1905 in the Division of Agriculture. In 1925 its name was changed to the Department of Technical Journalism. In 1969 its name changed to the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications; from 1969 to 1989 the department was directed by all four colleges, and in 1989 was placed under the direction of the College of Sciences and Humanities (later College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). In 1998 its name was changed to the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.
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This study aims to test the two steps of the spiral of silence theory: (1) assessment of the climate of opinion and (2) willingness to speak out about controversial political issues with respect to young adults' political use of the social networking site, Facebook, to communicate with their close friends and broader circle of friends. Since the spiral of silence was initially proposed at time when traditional media dominance, this study illuminates the application of the theory on the emerging communicative technology.

The results show close friends were the most important group to assess the climate of opinion for both general political issues and the issue of same-sex marriage in particular. There are gender differences that women engaged in Facebook more frequently for maintaining relationships with friends whereas men reported more political use of Facebook. Women had higher use and perceived value of Facebook to communicate with both their close friends and broader circle of friends about the issue of same-sex marriage than men for the two steps of spiral of silence.

Results of the study contribute to understanding how spiral of silence theory might operate in an age of social media such as Facebook. Evidence also indicates that there are still gender differences in political communication.

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Sat Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2011