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New Poll Reveals Impact of Increasingly Hostile Social Media Environment On Open Political Expression

57 Percent Identify Trump Supporters as Very Aggressive Online

WASHINGTON – A new poll released today reveals how an increasingly hostile social media environment is impacting political expression in the U.S. The survey includes responses from a random sampling of 1,017 Americans over the age of 18, and reveals the level of perceived aggressiveness characteristic of this presidential campaign.

Key findings include:

  • 63 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans polled believe all campaigns should be reigning in their most aggressive supporters.
  • 57 percent rank Trump supporters as behaving the most aggressively, as compared to 30 percent who rank Clinton supporters as most aggressive.
  • 50 percent of respondents recently expressed an opinion on social media in support of or in opposition to a presidential candidate.
  • Between 15 and 20 percent of respondents report “unfriending” someone because of their diverging political opinions.
  • 14 percent of respondents under age 35 say that their jobs could be at risk for expressing their political preferences online.
  • Men are significantly more likely to say that they feel confident expressing their political opinions online.

A focus of the poll was how political expression can impact relationships and job security, with 15 percent of respondents saying they have unfriended someone on a social network because of an opinion they expressed about the 2016 election. One in five of those who call themselves very engaged did so, with Hispanics/Latinos and those under 35 the most likely to unfriend someone they disagree with politically.

Overall, 8 percent of respondents say their job could be at risk for expressing political opinions online, with 14 percent of those under 35, and 12 percent of those who are very politically engaged feeling this most strongly.

In looking at specific campaigns, the poll found Trump supporters have the worst reputation for being aggressive or threatening online, with more than half of respondents ranking them the worst. Even 35 percent of Trump’s own supporters ranked themselves as most aggressive and threatening. On the Democratic side, 30 percent of respondents rank Clinton supporters as very aggressive, compared to 16 percent for Sanders supporters.

More than half of the respondents want to see presidential campaigns doing more to reign in the aggressive behavior of their supporters.

An infographic with full details can be found here.

The poll was conducted by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and craigconnects. 1,017 interviews among likely voters were conducted by online survey from March 2 to March 9, 2016. The margin of error is ±3.07 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.