Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

Anthony, J. Nownes

Committee Members

Kirsten L. Widner, Emily U. Schilling, Christopher J. Ojeda


This dissertation seeks to further our understanding of individual social media use on polarization, evaluation of political candidates, and political emotions. Three separate articles are utilized to illuminate the effects of individual social media use. The first article pushes forward a theory which argues that social media is uniquely positioned to affect partisan feelings due to its propensity to lead individuals into echo chambers—online places that reinforce their existing opinions and attitudes. The second argues that social media plays into the hyper-partisan nature of the American political landscape, and by way, putting forward an atmosphere which will lead individuals to harbor more favorable feelings toward in-party candidates, and more unfavorable feelings toward out-party candidates. The third and last article argues that emotions can be transferred from one person to another like a virus, and this can take place on computer mediated devices, and due to past research showing that a particular individual’s news consumption can affect their emotional feelings about the political world, we should see anger heightened for those interacting with political content on social media sites. All three articles show that the proportion of time spent posting political content on social media has a significant effect on partisan attachments, candidate evaluations, and political emotions. However, in all three articles, this effect lessened as one’s general social media use increased.

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