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Political talk on mobile instant messaging services: a comparative analysis of Germany, Italy, and the UK

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Mobile instant messaging services (MIMS) are emerging as important digital environments in citizens’ everyday lives. We explore the use of MIMS for talking about politics with unique survey data on samples representative of Internet users in Germany, Italy, and the UK. First, we show that robust percentages of our respondents who use MIMS employ them for posting political messages and discussing politics. Second, we demonstrate that political talk on MIMS is positively associated with users’ tendency to censor themselves politically on social networking sites (SNS) and, to a lesser extent, with ideological extremism. Third, we find that the association between self-censorship on SNS and the likelihood of publishing political contents on MIMS is stronger for individuals living in former East Germany where, due to historical reasons, large segments of the population are reluctant to talk about politics in public. Our findings suggest that MIMS make a distinctive contribution to contemporary repertoires of political talk, with important implications for the quality and inclusiveness of interpersonal political discussion.
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Keywords: Mobile instant messaging services; comparative research; political discussion; social media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy 2: Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London, London, UK

Publication date: November 2, 2018

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