Tag Archives: Internet

Contrarian Thoughts on the Internet-News Effect on Political Attitude or Giving People More Credit

In the June 25 issue of The New Yorker, Ezra Klein writes ostensibly–but not actually–about why politicians change their positions and includes this bit:

At the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen kept track of the placement that the Times and the Washington Post (where I work) gave to stories about court rulings on the health-care law. When judges ruled against the law, they got long front-page stories. When they ruled for it, they got shorter stories, inside the paper. Indeed, none of the cases upholding the law got front-page coverage, but every rejection of it did, and usually in both papers. From an editorial perspective, that made sense: the Vinson and Hudson rulings called into question the law’s future; the other rulings signalled no change. But the effect was repeated news stories in which the Affordable Care Act was declared unconstitutional, and few news stories representing the legal profession’s consensus that it was not. The result can be seen in a March poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that fifty-one per cent of Americans think that the mandate is unconstitutional.

Much of the analysis on partisanship evolution during the past ten to 20 years tries to make the case that the emergence of the Internet and myriad partisan news sources led to the left becoming more liberal and the right becoming more conservative.* The argument is that individuals drift toward reading news sources consistent with the his/her ideological perspective, thereby reinforcing that position. But the rather informal study by Steve Benan contradicts that or at least demands a more nuanced framework. And Benan’s work is consistent with the general direction of respected research during the past 30 years and what Tracy said in Woody Allen’s Manhattan: “You have to have a little faith in people.”

* I’ve heard James Carville say this in a meeting. It’s common in the political science and media literatures. And groups like Pew have released reports making the same argument.

Things I Learned this Week

Among the things I learned this week:
* In the late 19th century, women wore posy holders. There was a lot of variety, but the ornate ones are beautiful and many had ring attachments so they could dangle. (Courtesy: Smithsonian Gardens)

* The joy and amusement of watching people who have never played Pac-Man before trumps my desire to play. (Courtesy: Smithsonian American Art Museum)

* GMail searches don’t auto-stem. I’m shocked and appalled (that I just learned this). (Courtesy: Personal experience)

* 1982 Bordeaux wines are historically important for the evolution of the wine market. (Courtesy: The New York Times)

* General Ulysses S. Grant’s relationship with Jews, including General Orders No. 11, which expelled them from areas under his control during the Civil War, and his, later, assistance in eastern Europe. (Courtesy: The New Republic)

* Pyongyang’s subway system is more extensive than I expected, although it does not appear to be expanding. Plus, it has significance in the context of world subway systems (other sites with good information or photos: Unofficial Pyongyang Metro). (Courtesy: North Korean Economy Watch)