Impact of Different Social Media Context on Attitude Polarization of Hot Topic Online

Research output: Conference PapersRGC 32 - Refereed conference paper (without host publication)peer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


Title2018 Ph.D Student New Media Conference
LocationCommunication University of China
Period5 January 2019


Social media context (SMC) is defined as the collection of attributes of platform, content, and audience in previous studies (Wang, 2016). The literature about attitude polarization concluded the spiral of silence, selective exposure, and community carnival as the main mechanism of polarization on Chinese social media (Zhou, 2012). Combining the definition and the framework of Deng (2018), this study proposed media nature, audience structure, recommendation algorithm, degree of behavior constrain, and information filter as the analysis framework of SMC to compare Zhihu and Weibo for explaining the different attitude polarization happened under the different SMC.For Zhihu, its knowledge sharing nature can promote complex thinking. Elite group users can play the role of hardcore in the spiral of silence. The quality and professional-led content recommendation gives audiences a low selective exposure environment. The unlimited number of word input functions allows topics on Zhihu to be discussed in a well-founded manner. Community carnival can be avoided to some extent by strict information filters. (Sotirovic, 2001; X. Liu et al., 2015; Pi & Cai, 2017). While, for Weibo, the media content consuming nature and “grassroots” community made users are more easily to be led as the pluralistic ignorance. Popular search-based recommendation gives users a high selective exposure environment. 140-word fragmented expression and the loose regulation of Weibo can strengthen attitude polarization towards hot topics ( Neumann, 1974; Postman, 1986; Che & Ip, 2018). Based on these, this study hypothesized that using Zhihu to focus on Jiang-Ge Case (JGC) has a negative effect on attitude polarization, while the situation of Weibo is on the opposite.A snowball sampling (N=893) based survey was conducted. Independent variables were the frequency of using Weibo and Zhihu to focus on JGC, and the dependent variable was the attitude towards JGC (e.g. to which extent do you agree with the sentencing of Japanese court). A set of control variables was included.Regression analysis released that, the use of Weibo was positively related to attitude polarization towards JGC. There was no significant negative relationship between Zhihu use and attitude polarization, which indicated that Zhihu use cannot polarize the attitude of audiences. Moreover, the legal knowledge could weaken the polarization effect of Weibo. Findings had roughly verified that the attitude of audiences towards one certain topic could be influenced by the differences between SMC within different social media platform. On the one hand, the SMC is derived from nature, audiences, and technology. On the other hand, SMC could influence the attitude polarization of audiences because of the different degree of consistency with the mechanism of polarization on Chinese social media. Professional qualities like legal knowledge could help construct a more stable and neutral attitude.In summary, this research suggested that social media has already become a place of attitude exchange and its SMC have been reshaping the structure of public opinion in China (Shao & Wang, 2017). This study verified a relatively elite and professional platform could build a neutral and rational attitude climate, while a more polarized climate could be formed under a more general and popular platform.

Research Area(s)

  • Social Media, Public Opinion

Bibliographic Note

Information for this record is supplemented by the author(s) concerned.

Citation Format(s)

Impact of Different Social Media Context on Attitude Polarization of Hot Topic Online. / Jin, Xin; Ye, Qian Ying.
2019. Paper presented at 2018 Ph.D Student New Media Conference, Beijing, China.

Research output: Conference PapersRGC 32 - Refereed conference paper (without host publication)peer-review