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« Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 792 -- Is Economic Recovery Here? | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 794 -- Obama Hates Small Business. »

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 793 -- Does Internet News Make Us More Isolated, More Partisan?

Segmenting Ourselves Ideologically-

Is the internet causing polarization and extreme partisanship? That's the theory many have, and it's easy to see why.

When interacting with certain individuals who get their news exclusively from liberal blogs and MoveOn.org emails, sometimes I feel like I am talking to someone from another planet entirely. Their facts are different, so of course their opinions are different.

Some new research indicates, though, that internet news gathering-- while allowing people to narrowly filter their own information through the clique they choose-- is no more isolating than many other forms of media:

88 percent of the visitors to foxnews.com are conservative, whereas 40 percent of the visitors to nytimes.com are. Fully 98 percent of visitors to glennbeck.com are conservative, while only 6 percent of those visiting thinkprogress.org are.

But the results also suggest that Internet users are voracious readers who flit from site to site with abandon. In the end, that means that the typical conservative visits many sites that are more liberal than he is, and the typical liberal visits many sites that are more conservative than he is.

The authors capture these movements with something they call the "isolation index," which is plotted in the nearby chart. If conservatives visit only sites with all conservative visitors, and liberals visit only sites with all liberal visitors, then the index is 100. If there is no political pattern to site visits, then the index is 0.

The chart shows the isolation index for different types of media. In the case of the Internet, the average conservative viewer visits websites with a viewership that is 60.6 percent conservative. The average liberal visits websites with a viewership that is 53.1 percent conservative. The difference between those two, 7.5 percent, is the isolation index for the Internet. That figure is distinctly higher than the index for magazines, broadcast news (the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, or the BBC), cable television (CNN, Fox News,MSNBC, CNBC, or Bloomberg), and local newspapers. But it is lower than for national newspapers (the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal), and for random face-to-face interactions within one's zip code.

Interesting stuff.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Are We In An Economic Recovery.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 May 2010 09:53 AM


In the final analysis, we make the choices in life, not media outlets. The internet represents the greatest proliferation and explosion of information and choice in the history of mankind. Far from creating isolationism, it offers the opportunity to expand our knowledge, experience and worldview.
Another way to look at it is: who gets to filter the news? In traditional sources, the filtering is done by editors and publishers, for good or bad. On the internet, we become our own editor. Sure, that means picking and choosing that which we find helpful or pleasing, supportive or appealing. Or even truthful. But, that's the way it works in other segments of life and our economy.
I suspect that those who criticize this new freedom of choice resent loosing the power they once had.

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Posted by: Acai Max Cleanse at May 11, 2010 07:14 AM

There is a large portion of entrapment in newspapers and tv by getting your local news. There is always bias and censorship in the total source.You often never learn what was omitted and the mix of fact and opinion calls for careful analysis that many choose to avoid.White house media control is not de jure only de facto and not complete but stunningly obvious.

Posted by: clyde at June 6, 2010 11:36 AM