The Impact of Social Influence, Structure, Networks and Community on Party Preference

Subject: Political
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1015
Topics: Government, Political Science, Social Issues


Being a democratic process, voting is often cited as an individual affair. However, some researchers assert that social influence, structures and networks are significant determinants of party preferences. It is assumed that the presence of other people in one’s locality or social group influence social and political decisions that an individual makes (Zhang, Seltzer, and Bichard 2013). Social networks affect how one chooses a political party in that contact with other people exposes one to new information that is different in origin. In addition, the geographical locality of an individual influences one’s choice of party. The goal of this study is to assess the impact social context including social influence, structure, community and networks on party preference and electoral process. 

Impact of Social Position, structure, networks, and community on Voting Behavior

Research has indicated that social position determines the voting behavior of an individual. It has been noted that people tend to associate with members of society who have a position of influence in a society (Klofstad, Sokhey, and McClurg 2013). This means that if a prominent member of a society has a party preference, it is more likely that people will also choose the same party due to social influence. Studies into the influence of networks and social structure on party choice are crucial in qualifying individual decisions in relations to electoral processes. 

Other scholars have asserted that party choice relies less on social background and that disparity in voting between different social classes is decreasing. If social class plays an increasingly insignificant role in party choice, then it would have lost its explanatory basis and party choice would be based entirely on individual choice. The administrative statistics such as level of education, religion, gender, and geographical regions are crucial to the understanding of social context on party choice (Klofstad, Sokhey, and McClurg 2013). The use of administrative statistics allows the researcher to prevent ecological fallacy in describing party choice by separating contextual, composition and individual effects.  This implies that geographical regions, religion, and level of education are other factors in the social context that influence voting behavior. The level of education determines the party choice based on understanding of the party values and manifesto. A person who has a high school level of education is likely to make an informed choice based on the values of the party. On the other hand, the geographical region has an influence on the choice of a political party. Many social networks and structures are formed in close proximity.  Many relations in the society are between members who have shared goals and objectives. People will tend to support a member of their social network as a party candidate.

The social networks have an influence on voting behavior and patterns.  The size of the social network is equated to the number of strong ties. The presence of a close social network is a strong indicator for social and emotional support (Bode et al., 2014). It has been asserted that members of the same social network tend to have similar beliefs and practices since they share personal and social matters.  The choice of a political party or candidate can be influenced by a social network.

Voting Behavior

Voting behavior is an interesting part of modern politics, one that compels researchers to explain the determinants of electoral choice. As such, it is crucial to investigate the extent to which social structure, community and social networks influence electoral decisions. To begin with, social position has been observed to significantly affect voting behavior. Secondly, networks are considered to directly affect party choice through voter identification.  The flow of information in a person’s social network, the opinion leaders in the social network and the ease of with which information flows affects the strength and direction of party inclinations.

The community has a significant impact on the voting behavior. Even though communities have become dynamic due to new forces such as globalization and shifting labor markets, it can be argued that the community in which a person lives directly affects their personal networks (Dalton 2013). This in turns affects their party choice due to the resulting structural availability or deconstruction of network positions. These three aspects of social structure (position, networks and community) interact to provide a sociological basis for outcomes of electoral processes. 


The study is a cross- sectional observational method. Data will be collected using survey and interview method.  The Social Cohesion Indicators Flanders will be used to test the hypotheses. A representative survey of respondents between 18 to 75 years will be chosen from a country that is almost conducting its elections (Aral and Walker 2014). A face to face interview method will be chosen to allow the researcher to collect more reliable data on the complicated questions. The interviews are expected to yield a seventy percent response rate. The data is expected to be collected between May and June. The sample population will be chose using stratified sampling method and the study participants will be one hundred and fifty. Ethical considerations such as informed consent, privacy, and confidentiality will be taken into account during data collection.


It is expected that the study will illuminate the fact that preference and electoral processes are influenced by the social context. Different aspects of the society such as social background, social networks, community, and position have an impact on the voting behavior and the choice of party. However, the level of impact will vary depending on the party. Other aspects of the society such as religious affiliations, gender, geographical location, and education attainment will form a part of the influences of social background on party choice (Sohn 2014). The study is expected to yield results on the relevance of social networks and community in the party choice. The results are expected to support the hypothesis that social context has an influence on the electoral processes and voting patterns of people. This implies that if we have knowledge of the social background, community, and place of residence of a voter,  it is possible to predict a  huge part of his/ her voting choices.

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  1. Aral, S. and Walker, D., 2014. Tie strength, embeddedness, and social influence: A large-scale networked experiment. Management Science, 60(6), pp.1352-1370.
  2. Bode, L., Vraga, E.K., Borah, P. and Shah, D.V., 2014. A new space for political behavior: Political social networking and its democratic consequences. Journal of ComputerMediated Communication, 19(3), pp.414-429.
  3. Cheng, J., Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, C. and Leskovec, J., 2014. How community feedback shapes user behavior. arXiv preprint arXiv:1405.1429.
  4. Dalton, R.J., 2013. Citizen politics: Public opinion and political parties in advanced industrial democracies. Cq Press.
  5. Klofstad, C.A., Sokhey, A.E. and McClurg, S.D., 2013. Disagreeing about disagreement: How conflict in social networks affects political behavior. American Journal of Political Science, 57(1), pp.120-134.
  6. Laumann, E.O. and Pappi, F.U., 2013. Networks of collective action: A perspective on community influence systems. Elsevier.
  7. Sohn, D., 2014. Coping with information in social media: The effects of network structure and knowledge on perception of information value. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, pp.145-151.
  8. Zhang, W., Seltzer, T. and Bichard, S.L., 2013. Two sides of the coin: Assessing the influence of social network site use during the 2012 US Presidential campaign. Social Science Computer Review, 31(5), pp.542-551.
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