Pablo Barberá Wins the 2016 Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Award

The Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha prize is awarded annually for the best paper presented at the previous year’s annual meeting. The award is supported by Pi Sigma Alpha.


Social network sites are important places where citizens consume political information.  In this innovative and elegant paper, Barberá counters the prevailing view that social media networks function as echo chambers to produce more extreme, polarized political opinions.  Examining individuals using Twitter accounts in Spain, Germany, and the U.S., Barberá constructs a dynamic measure of the political ideology of Twitter users based on who they follow.  His analysis shows that users joined by weak ties are incidentally exposed to diverse political opinions and become more moderate over time.  Barberá also presents survey evidence from the same three countries to support this conclusion, and uses voter records from five U.S. states to  match Twitter profiles with evidence of offline behavior.

Special thanks to our committee Carol Nackenoff (Chair), Swarthmore College; Jake Bowers, University of Illinois; Jonas Pontusson, University of Geneva