a1 The University of Colorado at Boulder
a2 Southern Illinois University
Work on the nexus between deliberation and democratic practice has considered the normative consequences of socially driven behavior. However, a common criticism of interpersonal networks is that most people have insular social circles and that when they do not they are unlikely to engage in politics. We show that such pessimistic assessments are unwarranted, though for unexpected reasons. Using data from the 1992 Cross-National Election Project and the 2000 ANES, we examine the conditions under which social networks promote interest-based voting in the United States. We find that networks facilitate connections between individuals’ vote decisions and their underlying preferences when they provide unambiguous signals regarding candidates—because many Americans reside in supportive social environments, networks often help citizens make “correct” voting decisions (Lau and Redlawsk 1997). Thus, social networks appear to help shoulder the demands of democratic theory, but not by helping people learn about politics in any traditional sense.
Anand Edward Sokhey is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0333.
Scott D. McClurg is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901-4501.