Linking Social Network Analysis to the Spiral of Silence, Coorientation, and Political Discussion: The Intersection of Political Perceptions and Political Communication
Scholars across several disciplines, and with varied theoretical orientations, have worked to understand the implication of others’ opinions for the likelihood of political conversation generally, and opinion expression specifi cally. Public opinion scholars have conducted scores of studies testing aspects of Noelle-Neumann’s (1993) spiral of silence theory. Others have taken a dyadic coorientation approach to opinion perception and interaction (McLeod & Chaff ee, 1973). Over the past few decades, political communication scholars have examined the role of political agreement or homogeneity of discussion partners in encouraging or discouraging political discussion (e.g., Huckfeldt & Mendez, 2008; Mutz, 2006). In this chapter, I begin with a very brief summary of each of these areas of research. I follow this by synthesizing work in these diverse and mostly independent literatures, with the goal of theoretical advancement through integration. I pay special attention to at least fi ve advantages of integrating social network concepts and methods as part of this integration: (a) making more explicit micro-to-macro linkages; (b) emphasizing reference groups; (c) observing social isolates; (d) moving beyond hypothetical situations; and (e) contrasting eff ects of perception and reality.