Social Media Influence, Electoral Competition, and Political Polarization

Professor Yotam Shmargad, PhD

Professor Yotam Shmargad, PhD

Barbara Starrett

SaddleBrooke Freethinkers is pleased to have Yotam Shmargad, Ph.D. speak on Sunday, March 29, 2020, at 10 a.m. at the MountainView Ballroom with a coffee social at 9:30 a.m. Dr. Shmargad will talk about social media and politics. Do social media platforms help or hurt democracy? Internet enthusiasts posit that social media could have a democratizing effect by lowering the costs of promotion, while skeptics argue that these platforms simply replicate or even exacerbate pre-existing inequities. There is evidence that social media is beneficial for candidates who are at a financial disadvantage compared to their competitor. These findings suggest that social media platforms may open the door for political underdogs and highlights the important role that journalists play in bridging political divisions.

Shmargad is a computational social scientist and an assistant professor in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona. His research focuses on understanding how social media platforms shape political life in the United States. He uses a mix of statistical and computational methods, including social network analysis, online data collection, virtual experimentation, sentiment analysis, and machine learning techniques. His research speaks to questions about how social media dampen certain disparities while magnifying others and how social media can both fuel political polarization and incivility as well as extinguish their flames. Shmargad’s work has appeared in the Journal of Politics, the Journal of Information Policy, the Journal of Political Marketing, the Journal of Interactive Marketing, Political Communication, and the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, among other venues. Before joining the University of Arizona, Shmargad received his Ph.D. in quantitative marketing from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

SaddleBrooke Freethinkers provides a forum for the responsible search for truth and meaning in understanding and solving human problems by applying science and reason. We believe that tolerance, compassion, equity, and civility should characterize interactions among people and organizations. We strive to achieve these goals through meetings, lectures, and discussions.

SaddleBrooke Freethinkers meetings are held at the MountainView Ballroom on Sunday mornings with a coffee social starting at 9:30 a.m. The program begins at 10 a.m. For dates and subjects, go to our website,

You can become a member of the SaddleBrooke Freethinkers for $15 per calendar year. This fee includes all lectures and other Freethinkers events like the book club and social events. Lecture program runs from October-April. Lectures are open to all SaddleBrooke residents and their guests, as space is available. Non-members are encouraged to make a $2 donation to defray costs. All attendees are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or cash donations for the Tri-Community Food Bank.

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