Partisan Politics: Do You Shelter Yourself Among Like-Minded People?

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Democratic supporters turn to Fox News to understand the other side: Photo by TheHoosierState89

All Democrats stick to DailyKos, and all Republicans only read at Townhall… Right? Wrong.

Conventional wisdom in America is that partisan individuals stick to people who agree with them, and avoid the opposite viewpoint. According to a new study by Professor R. Kelly Garrett, and graduate students Dustin Carnahan and Emily Lynch, published online in Political Behavior, the conventional wisdom is wrong.

In this study of political readers, these researchers found that the more engaged a person was in politics, the more likely he was to seek out sources of information that disagreed with his worldview.

Partisanship and Engagement in Politics

Professor Garrett examined surveys that recorded the self-described political leanings and online reading habits of partisan individuals taken between 2004 and 2008. By using these surveys to track views to major news providers and blogging websites, Garrett was able to compare the relationship between partisan views and opposing views. Over those four years of research, Professor Garrett and his team saw that the more partisan blogs a person read, the more likely they were to read opposing blogs as well. Conservative readers sought out liberal points of view in addition to sites that agreed with their ideology, and liberals did the same with conservative sites. These findings contradict the conventional wisdom.

Decoded Science asked Professor Garrett if he examined bloggers as well, or just readers. He responded,

The data we used come from surveys of blog users, not bloggers, so we can’t say much about them in this study.  There are a couple studies that have looked at who bloggers engage in their posts that suggest that cross-ideological conversations are not uncommon.

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