Four years ago, Donald Trump’s victory disproved many polls that, in the run up to Election Day, put Hillary Clinton in the White House. Clinton supporters likely also heard from few or no outliers in their social media feeds, causing something of an echo chamber effect, where the same idea bounced around, reinforcing itself within that subgroup.
The 2020 election will go down in record books for the historic number of people who voted—about two-thirds of the eligible population—and because so many of those votes were cast by mail in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. But did people experience the same news bubble they did in 2016? Research from the Annenberg School for Communication’s Sandra González-Bailón and doctoral candidate Tian Yang offers some insight, in particular about the types of news sources people now consume.
“Far from encouraging people to remain enclosed in echo chambers of similar others, we’re finding that those bubbles are breaking up,” says González-Bailón, an Annenberg associate professor and affiliated faculty at the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences. “People are actually exposed to and consuming news from a wide range of sources.” The researchers published these findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Penn Today discussed with González-Bailón and Yang what this means in the context of the recent election, a win for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., as well as what else we need to understand about how people process the news they read and watch.