Talking with one voice? Conversation networks and political polarisation

Charles Pattie*, Ron Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


• Analyses the effects of political homogeneity and heterogeneity in citizens' conversation networks on ideological position 

• Other things being equal, membership of more politically homogenous conversation networks leads individuals into more extreme political evaluations • Network homogeneity drives polarisation of political attitudes and creates larger perceived gulfs between individuals' own views and the views they ascribe to parties opposed by their conversation partners. 

Persuasion is a well-known consequence of political discussion between citizens: people bring their partisan and ideological views into line with those of their discussion partners. Less often considered is another aspect of this process: does persuasion in conversation networks increase the gap individuals perceive between their own views and those of groups or parties opposed by their discussion partners? Building on work which suggests that ideological homogeneity within networks leads to increased polarisation and drives individuals to relative political extremes, the article examines British voters' perceptions of parties whose views they do not share. The more internally homogeneous the partisan message coming from their main discussion partners, the more extreme individuals become in their views, and the greater the gulf they perceive between themselves and parties not supported by their networks. But the effect is evident only on issues which are politically salient, suggesting this is a real conversation effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-497
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • conversation
  • ideology
  • polarisation
  • political attitudes
  • political behaviour
  • United kingdom


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