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Title: Online experimentation for studying political polarization Authors:  Alexander Volfovsky - Duke University (United States) [presenting]
Abstract: Social media sites are often blamed for exacerbating political polarization by creating echo chambers that prevent people from being exposed to information that contradicts their preexisting beliefs. We conducted a field experiment during which a large group of Democrats and Republicans followed bots that retweeted messages by elected officials and opinion leaders with opposing political views. Republican participants expressed substantially more conservative views after following a liberal Twitter bot, while Democrats attitudes became slightly more liberal after following a conservative Twitter bot although this effect was not statistically significant. As part of a follow up to this experiment, we study the impact of the Russian Internet Research Agency's (IRA) online influence campaign. We find no evidence that interacting with the IRA accounts substantially impacted 6 political attitudes and behaviors. Descriptively, interactions with trolls were most common among individuals who use Twitter frequently, have strong social-media echo chambers, and high interest in politics. We conclude by describing several ongoing field experiments that are designed to elucidate the underlying causes of polarization as well as provide strategies for mitigating it. We will highlight the important causal problems we must solve in order to properly design randomized and observational studies for these complex applied questions.