WhatsApp with Politics?!: Examining the Effects of Interpersonal Political Discussion in Instant Messaging Apps

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Abstract

With an increasing number of people, especially adolescents, using more private online platforms, such as WhatsApp, for news, an important question for democracy is whether such platforms can facilitate learning about politics and current events. In this study, we examine adolescents’ affective (emotions, feelings), behavioral (actions and behavioral intentions), and cognitive (political knowledge) responses to interpersonal political discussion on WhatsApp. We conducted a preregistered field experiment at six secondary schools in the Netherlands (N = 230). We assigned respondents with strong ties to a WhatsApp group. For seven days, respondents received a link to an online political news item on a daily basis; and (1) either had to read or (2) read and discuss it. The results indicate that interpersonal discussion evokes stronger positive emotions and feelings, as well as issue-specific knowledge. In addition, elaboration on the content of political discussion was positively related to issue-specific knowledge. In this way, instant messaging apps may serve as a resource for engaging adolescents with politics and current events.

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APA

Vermeer, S. A. M., Kruikemeier, S., Trilling, D., & de Vreese, C. H. (2021). WhatsApp with Politics?!: Examining the Effects of Interpersonal Political Discussion in Instant Messaging Apps. International Journal of Press/Politics, 26(2), 410–437. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161220925020

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