Which Way Does Your Blog Lean?

A new paper by Aaron Shaw and Yochai Benkler looks at the differences between left- and right-wing political blogs during the summer of 2008.  From the abstract:

An examination of the top 155 political blogs reveals significant cross-ideological variations along several dimensions. Notably, the authors find evidence of an association between ideological affiliation and the technologies, institutions, and practices of participation. Blogs on the left adopt different, and more participatory, technical platforms, comprise significantly fewer sole-authored sites, include user blogs, maintain more fluid boundaries between secondary and primary content, include longer narrative and discussion posts, and (among the top half of the blogs in the sample) more often use blogs as platforms for mobilization. The findings suggest that the attenuation of the news producer-consumer dichotomy is more pronounced on the left wing of the political blogosphere than on the right. The practices of the left are more consistent with the prediction that the networked public sphere offers new pathways for discursive participation by a wider array of individuals, whereas the practices of the right suggest that a small group of elites may retain more exclusive agenda-setting authority online.

It’s worth noting that this research predates the Tea Party movement; it will be interesting to see if their findings on blogs as “platforms for mobilization” still hold true.

 (HT: Marginal Revolution)

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  1. Gkn says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Mike B says:

      Doesn’t the Tea Party use that same term to criticize the left? Besides, if the study was conducted properly anyone should be able to analyze the data set, examine their methodology and replicate their findings. Instead of dismissing studies out of hand because of their authors try learning how to properly vet them and then issue a thoughtful rebuttal.

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  2. Mike B says:

    I don’t know if the bias on my Railroad Signaling blog fits on the right/left spectrum.

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  3. Gary says:

    Conclusions from four year old data on something as fluid as blogging is almost certainly obsolete.

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    • Rob says:

      Not to mention that this happened during the run-up to the Presidential Election – an election where the left was mobilized and excited about their candidate and the right was bored and unsure about their candidate.

      This paper is about as useful and predictive as how people in 1998 use a Commodore 64.

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  4. Jeff says:

    I know that lately the Freakonomics blog leans way left

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    • DaveyNC says:

      The comments section certainly does. Much more than it did before Freakonomics went to the NYT. It’s like all the lefties rubbed off on this blog permanently. Used to be more evenly divided.

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  5. jordans says:

    log leans way left

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    • Eric M. Jones. says:

      In my opinion this blog is by percentage, more conservative-right-wing. If you need proof, see my comment in the recent “The Thinking Liberal”. I got hammered by the right-wingers…and it wasn’t only my bad manners for telling the truth.

      Unless I am mistaken, both Dubner and Levitt lean just a teense to the right of center, although more in the olde republican way.

      BTW, I’m not surprised by the authors’ paper. The liberal democrats are obviously the coalition party.

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      • J1 says:

        I’d agree this blog seems to lean very slightly right. Comments lean slightly left, likes/dislikes slightly right.

        “it wasn’t only my bad manners for telling the truth”

        Sanctimony is a really easy target.

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      • Jeff says:

        Levitt is slightly right of center, Dubner I’m not so sure about. But what about the ubiquitous “FREAKONOMICS” “author”??? That one (I know it’s different people) leans left and not only slightly.

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  6. tmeier says:

    I just wish in all these purportedly scientific examinations of liberal/conservative, left/right someone would produce a definition of what those words mean better than Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography, “I know it when I see it”.
    It’s quaint old-fashioned notion nowadays but it seems to me if you want to discover or communicate anything real on a subject you should start with an agreed, objective understanding of what it is. These studies seem more like playground taunts than science.

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    • Clacny says:

      Or they could at least admit that there is NO objectively defined (or definable) left, right, or center. It’s all amorphous and fluid over different groups, different places and different times. At best you can judge people or groups relative to eachother, but you still have the problem of reducing complex positions to a single axis. Surveys are always imperfect and subject to various biases so you’ll never have areliable sampling of the population at large. And then add the fact that things change so fast that much of the data is obsolete in five years. And the fact that these are (by definition) highly charged political issues, so you can’t trust anyone to be objective about it.

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      • tmeier says:

        What annoys me is the debasement of science. I suppose it’s inevitable with science enjoying such success and admiration for giving us technological wonders that people, being as they are, try to cloak their philosophical agendas in a scientific mantle.
        I try to get what enjoyment I can out of the irony of people presenting studies so obviously worthless, so absurdly, ridiculously flawed, telling you their study is evidence the people they don’t agree with are stupid/inferior.

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  7. J1 says:

    I’d agree the authors seem to lean left based on what I see here, but (as somebody who doesn’t) I don’t see much to disagree with other than terminology.

    “more participatory, technical platforms, comprise significantly fewer sole-authored sites, include user blogs, maintain more fluid boundaries between secondary and primary content, include longer narrative and discussion posts”

    Agreed. Leftist blogs are far more tolerant of trolls and name calling, and links to blogs of similiar political bent that specialize in both.

    “that the attenuation of the news producer-consumer dichotomy is more pronounced on the left wing of the political blogosphere than on the right”

    Your abstract would be shorter if you didn’t repeat yourself.

    “more often use blogs as platforms for mobilization”

    Since the right rarely “mobilizes” in the sense the left does (Mike’s Tea Party example is the only one I can think of offhand) this is true, but kind of like saying Italian restaurants are more likely than Chinese restaurants to serve Italian food .

    “practices of the right suggest that a small group of elites may retain more exclusive agenda-setting”

    This is the one I’m not sure about. Pretty much all blogs limit guest bloggers and links to people who agree with the blog “owner”. I’d be interested in seeing data on this one; I don’t see a lot of variance in the views of the larger body of bloggers at either end of the spectrum, though because the right blogosphere seems to lean pretty libertarian, there is more conflict with what would be considered traditional right wing views. As others have noted, this boils down to definitions that can be pretty tough to nail down.

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    • tmeier says:

      “what would be considered traditional right wing views”

      By who? Who gets to decide what ‘right-wing-views’ means? A poll? An ‘expert’? Self-selection? Who decided what constituted a right or left wing blog? If you can’t define terms this is all meaningless and more; it’s so obviously meaningless it should be used as a test of prejudice.

      If this ‘study’ seems to mean something to you, you are prejudiced.

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      • J1 says:

        A person who tells you they aren’t prejudiced (or biased, if you prefer) has already lied to you once.

        Right wing and left wing generally fall along two axes, social and economic. And maybe some sub-axes such as foreign policy. That’s why there aren’t many people who fall solidly into one camp or the other. But there are some.

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      • tmeier says:

        “Right wing and left wing generally fall along two axes, social and economic. ”

        No they don’t. People in media try to sell an idea of what these things mean but so few real people fit the prescribed model it is useless except as a strawman. That is the real meaning of the terms as they are used, if you self-identify as liberal, conservatives are defined as stupid bad people, if you think of yourself as conservative liberals are bad stupid people. They have as much meaning as kindergarteners calling each other poopy-pants.

        Yeah for our team!

        Like most people I have an idea when I hear these words based on observations of people I know who identify themselves with one side or the other but I’d never consider trying to sell my idea as scientific, objective or definitive.

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      • tmeier says:

        For example Roger Scruton defines conservative as someone who takes a pragmatic rather than an idealistic approach to the evolution of society. Liberals in his view are idealists who believe power is in the wrong hands and want to scrub out the current system and replace it with a utopian vision. It’s a coherent definition but it would make a lot of American conservatives liberals and vice-verse. Even William F. Buckley’s definition of conservative doesn’t fit a majority of those Americans labeling themselves conservatives nowadays. Likewise iconic liberals of the past have little in common with modern liberals, though this is perhaps more understandable.

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  8. Nosybear says:

    Correlation between communication styles and the recent research on the difference between the way liberals and conservatives think? (see the link to “The Thinking Liberal” currently in the right column of my screen)

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