Perspectives on Politics

Research Article

Self-Segregation or Deliberation? Blog Readership, Participation, and Polarization in American Politics

Eric Lawrencea1, John Sidesa2 and Henry Farrella3

a1 Department of Political Science, George Washington University. E-mail: edl@gwu.edu

a2 Department of Political Science, George Washington University. E-mail: jsides@gwu.edu

a3 Department of Political Science and Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. E-mail: farrellh@gwu.edu

Abstract

Political scientists and political theorists debate the relationship between participation and deliberation among citizens with different political viewpoints. Blogs provide an important testing ground for their claims. We examine deliberation, polarization, and political participation among blog readers. We find that blog readers gravitate toward blogs that accord with their political beliefs. Few read blogs on both the left and right of the ideological spectrum. Furthermore, those who read left-wing blogs and those who read right-wing blogs are ideologically far apart. Blog readers are more polarized than either non-blog-readers or consumers of various television news programs, and roughly as polarized as US senators. Blog readers also participate more in politics than non-blog readers. Readers of blogs of different ideological dispositions do not participate less than those who read only blogs of one ideological disposition. Instead, readers of both left- and right-wing blogs and readers of exclusively leftwing blogs participate at similar levels, and both participate more than readers of exclusively right-wing blogs. This may reflect social movement-building efforts by left-wing bloggers.

Eric D. Lawrence is Assistant Professor of Political Science at George Washington University edl@gwu.edu

John Sides is Assistant Professor of Political Science at George Washington University jsides@gwu.edu

Henry Farrell is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University farrellh@gwu.edu

Footnotes

The authors wish to thank Yochai Benkler, Josh Cohen, Steven Berlin Johnson, Kieran Healy, Marc Lynch, Cosma Shalizi, Lee Sigelman and Cass Sunstein, as well as the readers of Crooked Timber (http://www.crookedtimber.org) and The Monkey Cage (http://www.themonkeycage.org) for their comments on earlier versions of this article, and Davy Banks and Adrian Johnston for research assistance.

Metrics