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Talking Politics

Political Discussion Networks and the New American Electorate

Taylor N. Carlson, Marisa Abrajano, and Lisa García Bedolla

Publication Date - April 2020

ISBN: 9780190082123

256 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $29.95


Over five decades of research has made clear that social networks can have an important impact on our political behavior. Specifically, when we engage in political conversation within these networks we develop connections that increase the likelihood that we will become politically active. Yet, most studies of political behavior focus on individuals, rather than the effects of networks on political behavior. Furthermore, any studies of networks have, by and large, been based on White Americans. Given what we know about the ways in which neighborhood, cultural, friend, and family networks tend to segregate along ethnic and racial lines, the authors of this book argue that we can assume that political networks segregate in much the same way.

This book draws on quantitative and qualitative analyses of 4000 White American, African American, Latino, and Asian American people to explore inter and intra-ethnoracial differences in social network composition, size, partisanship, policy attitudes, and homophily in political and civic engagement. The book thus makes three key contributions: 1) it provides, for the first time, detailed comparative analysis of how political networks vary across and within ethnoracial groups; 2) demonstrates how historical differences in partisanship, policy attitudes, and engagement are reflected within groups' social networks; and, 3) reveals the impact that networks can have on individuals' political and civic engagement.


  • Includes qualitative interviews from canvassers in grassroots organizations
  • Includes new dataset with discussion network data of a diverse sample
  • Examines the impact of political conversations on political attitudes and engagement across different ethnoracial groups

About the Author(s)

Taylor N. Carlson is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis. Her work focuses on political communication, political psychology, and race/ethnicity in American Politics. Specifically, she is interested in understanding the content and consequences of interpersonal political communication.

Marisa Abrajano is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. Her research examines the political behavior of racial and ethnic minorities in the United Sates, with a particular focus on Latinos.

Lisa García Bedolla is Vice Provost of Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on the causes and consequences of political inequalities in the United States.


"...engaging..." -- Journal of Economic Literature

"While the book will be of primary interest to political scientists, its insights about the socially constituted nature of political opinion and the diversity of the American electorate will inform anyone trying to understand the dynamics of contemporary US politics. Recommended. Graduate students and faculty." -- N. Zaretsky, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, CHOICE

"Drawing from a rich new dataset on political conversations among Latinx, Black, Asian American, and White Americans, this book enriches our understanding of the dynamics of discussion networks and political engagement. This is essential reading for anyone interested in how Americans talk to one another about politics, and what impact these conversations have on elections." -- Jane Junn, University of Southern California

"The authors challenge traditional studies of political behavior by analyzing original data that considers the diversity of networks-and political conversations in particular-for understanding what citizens believe and do. The authors demonstrate that the influence of informal conversation varies across ethno-racial groups, highlighting the critical importance of integrating the changing diversity and communication patterns of the mass public as fundamental features of our research.ÂAn interesting and invaluable study of political behavior in the U.S. today." -- Jan E. Leighley, American University

"This book offers a critical new perspective on the study of political communication and networks by centering the social contexts that shape who we talk to in our everyday lives. The authors make a compelling case about how politics is a function of lived community and how we experience it through racialized interactions with others. They offer a lively, informed assessment of how the effects of these discussions varies across groups." -- Janelle S. Wong, University of Maryland, College Park

Table of Contents

    Acknowledgments ix
    1. Introduction 1
    2. Empirical Shortcomings: Why Do We Know So Little about
    Non-White Networks?
    3. The Composition and Determinants of Political Discussion
    4. Precursors to Political Engagement: Political Efficacy and Trust
    5. Political Discussion Networks and Information
    6. The Impact of Political Discussion Networks on Civic and
    Political Engagement
    7. Conclusion: Political Discussion Networks and the New
    American Electorate