Take A Deep Breath

Everything is becoming hyperpolitical…. except politics:

Some suggest that the internet and social media have replaced the older print and electronic media, but the available research does not support that suggestion. If “hundreds of millions of people” really were doing politics on social media, I would share Hanson’s worries, but such a claim overstates the number of social media activists by several orders of magnitude. A 2013 Facebook study that tracked Bing toolbar searches found that 96 percent of the users clicked on zero or one opinion column in a three-month period. In 2017 the Pew Research Center reported that less than four percent of adults consider Twitter an important source of news. (Twitter audiences are exaggerated, but for what it’s worth, President Trump reportedly has 53 million followers; Katie Perry has about twice that many.) Studies of fake news conclude that its impact is minimal.

Researchers have studied the concept of “filter bubbles” or “ideological silos.” This is the fear that the availability of politically slanted media outlets on the internet allows people to isolate themselves and consume only news and opinion consistent with their ideological preferences. Research like the Facebook study noted above fails to find much reason for concern, mainly because most Americans don’t search out any political news, let along limit themselves to ideologically congenial news. Other research finds that internet audiences are, in fact, less politically homogeneous than people’s face-to-face networks. In my personal experience I’ve concluded that the two kinds of people most likely to exist in ideological silos are academics and journalists.

In many respects the American electorate has changed surprisingly little in more than six decades. In 2016 about 10 percent of the eligible electorate made a campaign contribution—to any campaign at any level, the same figure as in the 1950s. Despite media hype about Obamamania in 2008 and Trump rallies in 2016, less than 10 percent of the eligible electorate attended any kind of campaign meeting or rally in those years, the same figure as six decades ago. As for people who knock on doors or make phone calls for campaigns, we are talking about two to three percent of the eligible electorate, the same small proportion as in the Eisenhower era.

Blessed be the normies, for their blood pressure is closer to normal.

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