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date: 21 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

While political network research is often a holistic enterprise, the network paradigm can also be used to study individual behavior. Specifically, rather than focusing on full network structures, a well-established area of research considers individuals’ “core” networks, their perceptions of interpersonal connections, and the consequences of said micro-social environments for myriad political outcomes and processes. This chapter examines this research tradition, tracing the history of its use in the study of political behavior. It begins with discussion of network research, paying specific attention to “egocentric” network name generator techniques. It then outlines several challenges to this research paradigm: (1) the difficulty of making causal inferences, (2) debates over concept and measurement, and (3) questions about mechanisms of influence. The chapter concludes by reviewing advances in the field that have developed from these challenges and points toward next steps in this research agenda, focused on the connected citizenry.

Keywords: political discussion, social networks, name generators, political disagreement, political expertise, measurement, political behavior, mechanisms, egocentric network, alters

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