When people think of technology, they often have two simultaneous but conflicting thoughts: it helps and it hurts. Pew Research Center has studied Americans’ technology habits for two decades, and throughout that time, the public has identified clear benefits and drawbacks. While people value technology’s openness and connectivity, they are weary of its distractions and capacity to mislead.
These concerns are particularly salient when it comes to politics. The rise of digital technology has coincided with unprecedented political polarization in this country. From think pieces to casual conversations, many feel technology exacerbates these divisions. They are left to wonder how tools meant to bring us closer together can sometimes drive us further apart.
But while the technology may be new, engagement online is often a reflection of political involvement more broadly. For instance, a recent Pew Research Center report showed that those who are politically engaged take active steps to interact with political material on social media. One-in-five of these political enthusiasts “often” discuss politics on these platforms, while more than half follow political candidates or figures. And while a notable proportion expresses misgivings about the tone of political discussions on social media, the politically engaged are more likely to think social media help bring new voices into the discussion and get people involved with issues that matter to them. All in all, more than a third say they like seeing lots of political content on their feeds.