Self-Segregation or Deliberation? Blog Readership, Participation and Polarization in American Politics
40 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2008
Date Written: July 1, 2008
There is active debate among political scientists and political theorists over the relationship between participation and deliberation among citizens with different political viewpoints. Internet based blogs provide an important testing ground for these scholars' theories, especially as political activity on the Internet becomes increasingly important. In this article, we use the first major dataset describing blog readership to examine the relationship between deliberation, polarization and political participation among blog readers. We find that, as existing theories might predict, blog readers tend to read blogs that accord with their political beliefs. Cross-cutting readership of blogs on both the left and right of the spectrum is relatively rare. Furthermore, we find strong evidence of polarization among blogreaders, who tend to be more polarized than both non-blog-readers and consumers of various television news, and roughly as polarized as US Senators. Blog readers are also substantially more likely to participate in politics than non-blog readers. However, in contrast to previous research on offline social networks, we do not find that cross-cutting exposure to blogs of different ideological dispositions lowers participations. Instead, we find that cross-cutting blog readers are about as likely as left wing blog readers to participate in politics, and that both are significantly more likely than right wing blog readers to participate. We suggest that this may reflect social movement building efforts by left wing bloggers.
Keywords: blogs, Internet, deliberation, participation, polarization, political science
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