Study: there aren’t many blog readers in the ideological center
I guess that makes us a niche read here at TMV!
First – blog readers seem to exhibit strong homophily. That is to say, they overwhelmingly choose blogs that are written by people who are roughly in accordance with their political views. Left wingers read left wing blogs, right wingers read right wing blogs, and very few people read both left wing and right wing blogs. Those few people who read both left wing and right wing blogs are considerably more likely to be left wing themselves; interpret this as you like. Furthermore, blog readers are politically very polarized. They tend to clump around either the ‘strong liberal’ or the ‘strong conservative’ pole; there aren’t many blog readers in the center. This contrasts with consumers of various TV news channels, as the figure below illustrates. All of this suggests that blog readership is unlikely to be associated with the kinds of deliberative exchange between different points of view that some political theorists would like to see.
Second – blog readers are much more likely than non blog readers to engage in politics (through voting, giving money to candidates etc). Not only that, but left wing blog readers are significantly more likely than right wing blog readers to participate in politics. You could interpret this as evidence of more general depression among conservatives etc, but our best guess is that this is in large part the result of the netroots effect. Having a strong political movement which is pushing readers to make donations etc is likely to have real consequences. Obviously, we would like to have more data before we could make a really good case that our guess is correct.
John Sides has more here. Henry talked with Cass Sunstein (who he called “pretty skeptical about the virtues of Internet communication”) on the topic back in March. As did Eugene Volokh in May. Until this study I thought Volokh won the day.
I still will want to watch things evolve moving forward… btw, be sure to read the comments on the post, too.
Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.