“Defriending” in a polarized age: Political and racial homophily and tie dissolution.

Posted by Mark C. Pachucki on Sat, Mar 25, 2023

Abstract: Given increased political polarization and racial tension in the wake of the 2016 presidential election in the United States, this study examines dropped ties in personal networks at that time based on political and racial identities. We employed data from the 2015–2018 UCNets study (n = 1159), a longitudinal, representative data set of the San Francisco Bay Area. In late 2015 and early 2016 it generated personal network data via multiple name generators, eliciting alters whom respondents socialized with, confided in, received advice from, exchanged social support with, and found difficult. Using multilevel multinomial logit models, we then examined various reasons for tie dissolution immediately following the inauguration of Trump in early 2017. The results show that among young adults, politically dissimilar alters were more likely to be dropped due to disagreements. With respect to racial homophily, we found that interracial dyads were more likely to be dropped because of drifting apart or some other reason for both younger and older cohorts. Overall, there is some support for the notion that dropped ties due to political disagreements did occur immediately following the 2016 election, but the results highlight the continuing significance of race in personal networks.

Citation: Paik, A., Pachucki, M.C. and Tu, H.F., 2023. “Defriending” in a polarized age: Political and racial homophily and tie dissolution. Social Networks, 74, pp.31-41.