CMN 3133: Reading #4 Oct 3 2013
Social Networks and Political Knowledge
Beginning in the med to late 1990s, disciplines such as communication and political science witnessed an
increase in studies examining social or political networks far beyond the rate of such research in prior
Social networks are social structures connecting individuals through communication. Thus social networks
are from our perspective, fundamentally communicative in both their structure as well as the process
through which they produce effects.
The first or lowest level of network data includes studies that gather data from the perspective of the survey
respondents (egos), do not distinguish individual network members (alters) and ask for convenient
summary measures alters.
For instance, among democrats vs republicans, men vs women or family vs friends in order to capture
discussion across various characteristics of network members. The distinction at this level of network data
is that there is no effort to gather information about specific discussion partners their attributes or their ties
with one another.
Egocentric Network with Cognitive social structures Data:
Building upon egocentric network data, cognitive social structures (CSS) assess the relationships among
network alters based on the perception of the survey respondent. ( for examples,▯ C based on the
perception of A).
The social structure or network ties are measured not from the perspectives of theses network ties are
measured not from the perspectives of these networks alters themselves (that is, reports from B or C), but
instead from the perspective of a third party informant.
Sociometric or “whole network data”:
Sociometric data are the gold standard for capturing social networks.
For sociometric data, a social network is typically defined by a researcher using some existing and
sometimes relatively arbitrary boundary specifications.
Ex: researchers may use a list of employees in a small business, students in a given school, members of a
volunteer organization, participants in an online discussion forum or any other group with a clear boundary
and a complete list of members. Researchers attempt to gather data directly from each member of the network including characteristics of
the members and their communication ties to all other members of the group.
Most of what we know about the relationship between social networks and political knowledge is based on
summary network data and egocentric network data.
Eveland (2004) offered several theoretical reasons why political discussion should cause individuals to be
more politically knowledgeable
First though, a process of information held by one individual could be transferred to another in the same
way that political information flows through mass media.
There is also some evidence that individuals with larger political networks tend to be more politically
informed than those with smaller networks.
A similar logic can be used to predict a relationship between discussion with politically dissimilar others and
As with all data gathering and analysis approaches, the use of sociometric network data has advantages
Using socio metric network data, egonetwork size is tapped by a concept called degree centrality. When
ties are measures dichotomously (discussion vs no discussion), degree centrality refers to the number of
connections or paths linked to a given pers