Normative theories of deliberative democracy are based on the premise that social information processing can improve group beliefs. Research on the “wisdom of crowds” has found that information exchange can increase belief accuracy in many cases, but theories of political polarization imply that groups will become more extreme—and less accurate—when beliefs are motivated by partisan political bias. While this risk is not expected to emerge in politically heterogeneous networks, homogeneous social networks are expected to amplify partisan bias when people communicate only with members of their own political party. However, we find that the wisdom of crowds is robust to partisan bias. Social influence not only increases accuracy but decreases polarization without between-group network ties.
Research on this project was supported under the Russell Sage Foundation through the Summer Institute in Computational Social Science. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Russell Sage Foundation.