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Online Groups and Political Discourse: Do Online Discussion Spaces Facilitate Exposure to Political Disagreement?

To what extent do online discussion spaces expose participants to political talk and to cross-cutting political views in particular? Drawing on a representative national sample of over 1000 Americans reporting participation in chat rooms or message boards, we examine the types of online discussion spaces that create opportunities for cross-cutting political exchanges. Our findings suggest that the potential for deliberation occurs primarily in online groups where politics comes up only incidentally, but is not the central purpose of the discussion space. We discuss the implications of our findings for the contributions of the Internet to cross-cutting political discourse.