Abstract: Civilians Vs. Veterans: Who Is More Political on Social Media? (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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509P Civilians Vs. Veterans: Who Is More Political on Social Media?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Kirsten Laha-Walsh, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Alabama, AL
Kelli Godfrey, LMSW, Doctoral Student, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
David L. Albright, PhD, Professor & Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health Research, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Richard Fording, PhD, Marilyn Williams Elmore and John Durr Elmore Endowed Professor, The University of Alabama
Brenda Hanson, PhD Student, The University of Alabama
Background and Purpose: Over 1.66 billion individuals log onto Facebook every single day. High levels of social media use are associated with worse mental health and can have a polarizing impact on users who engage in political interactions. Using Social Cognitive Theory to guide our understanding of how military veterans might participate in using social media to express their political views we asked, “Do veterans post more political content than their civilian counterparts?”

Methods: We explored veterans’ social media posting behaviors by concatenating the 2016 and 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study datasets (CCES; N = 124,600). The CCES is a national stratified survey that asks a battery of questions about demographic characteristics and political attitudes. We first used descriptive statistics to describe the age, gender, political party affiliations, and race of participants. We then used multiple regression to explore the relationship between veteran status and social media behaviors, controlling for the demographic characteristics.

Results: Descriptive statistics show that veterans (N = 14,337, 11.5% of overall sample) are older (M = 52 years, SD = 17.33), predominately male (88%) white (79.2%). Identify politically as Independent (34.1%) and post close to twice a day (M = 1.88, SD = .32). Multiple regression models suggest that veteran status is not significantly associated with political affiliation on social media use. Veterans used social media less than their family members and more than civilians (B = .001, t = .23, p = .82).

Conclusions/ Implications: Results suggest that veteran status is not a significant indicator for predicting posting political content on social media. Given lower levels of social media usage are associated with better mental health, additional research is needed to explore whether veterans’ social media use impacts their mental health.