Digital Democracy Project Research Memo #3: Polarization and its Discontents

Researchers, pundits and armchair analysts have argued for some time now that Canada is becoming more like the United States when it comes to polarization—typically understood as the segmenting of society into increasingly isolated and mutually incomprehensible political tribes. It is also common to see at least some of the blame for polarization placed on the media, where increasingly partisan social media echo chambers amplify disagreement and distort the public conversation.

Yet while there is some evidence that Canadians are polarized, according to our data, the story is a bit more complicated than is often assumed. In particular, the usual narrative of social media-based echo chambers driving real-world polarization is not supported by our survey and online data. Yes, some small subset of Twitter users tend to create online echo chambers, but our survey findings suggest that the offline impact is very limited.