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The Changing Nature of Political Debate Consumption: Social Media, Multitasking, and Knowledge Acquisition

Political Communication journal Abstract:
This study examines the influence of debate viewing-social media multitasking on campaign knowledge during the 2012 presidential election. Results from three waves of a national cross-sectional survey of U.S. adults conducted during and after the 2012 presidential election suggest that social networking site (SNS) use overall correlates with increased knowledge of campaign issues and facts above and beyond the use of other sources of news media. In addition, watching a debate with or without simultaneous social media engagement is better for knowledge generation than not viewing a debate at all, but the effect of debate viewing is dulled when simultaneously engaging in social media multitasking. The debate viewing-social media multitasking effect is moderated by candidate preference, with differential learning occurring largely for knowledge that is favorable to one’s preferred candidate.