Incidental news exposure on social media and political participation gaps: Unraveling the role of education and social networks Articles uri icon

publication date

  • March 2022

start page

  • 101764


  • 68

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0736-5853

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1879-324X


  • Liberal democratic contexts have been the focus of much of the existing research on the relationship between incidental exposure to news on social media and political participation gaps. There is also a limited understanding of the factors that influence the mobilizing or reinforcing role of incidental news exposure in this process. This study examines the role of incidental news exposure on social media in political interest-driven participatory gaps in Singapore. It also examines how education, social network size, and heterogeneous political discussions further modify the effect of incidental news on the participatory gaps between high and low political interest groups. Findings from primary survey data support the reinforcement thesis, suggesting that politically disinterested individuals are negatively affected by frequent incidental news exposure, but those with high political interest benefit. Moderated moderation analyses indicate that these participatory gaps only exist at higher education levels and within more extensive social networks. Further, politically disinterested citizens are at risk for further disengagement if they encounter news accidentally in bigger social networks or engage in heterogeneous political discussion. The study contributes to the growing scholarship on the effects of incidental news exposure on political participation by highlighting the role of education and social network characteristics in amplifying the incidental news-based participation gaps.


  • incidental news; accidental news; political interest; network size; participatory gaps; heterogenous discussion