One of the goals of the Digital Democracy Project has been to track the digital media environment in order to identify potential threats to Canadian democracy. Our previous reports have shown that social media does not likely contribute to political polarization in Canada, and that Canadians generally trust the traditional news media, with even strong partisans more likely to engage with mainstream outlets on social media than media sites that cater to the fringes. Moreover, the more partisan and fragmented discourse found online is not necessarily reflected in the attitudes and beliefs of the mass population. Despite this positive news, our final report of this election period—which draws on data collected over the past three months—suggests that the information environment continues to have key vulnerabilities. Partisans, who are the most active citizens during election periods, tend to favour sharing and consuming content conducive to their existing worldviews and engage less with other perspectives.

Key findings:

  • Social media activity around Canadian politics has surged since the election period began. Political activity is up about 800% on Twitter and 250% on public Facebook posts.
  • As partisanship increases, so does participation in politics, with the most politically active Canadians also being the most partisan.
  • Even when exposed to news coverage from a variety of perspectives, audiences are still more likely to choose content that supports their political views.
  • Exposure to politicized messaging tends to harden political views. Canadians tend to take stronger positions on key electoral issues when they are presented with statements in line with their views, but also when they are exposed to both sides of an argument.
  • There is a strong link between political efficacy—people’s feelings that they are able to take part in political life and that politicians will represent their interests—and their political participation. Those who lack this belief are more likely to be non-partisans, and less likely to share their political views or get involved in other political activities.
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