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


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Republican candidates turned to liberal blogs in 2008 when faced with defeat: Photo by Jonathan McIntosh

Partisan Politics: When Electoral Defeat Looms

During the 2008 election season, Dr. Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick examined political candidates who were facing an electoral defeat in the fall. As part of Professor Garrett’s research team, Dr. Knobloch-Westerick noticed that Republican candidates who were losing their race were more likely to turn to opposition websites to learn more about the issues and their opponents. Democratic candidates turned to the same tactic, but not as heavily as Republicans.

Dr. Garrett summarized Dr. Knobloch-Westerwick’s findings thusly,

She suggests that the reason Republicans were more likely to look at liberal sources than the other way round during the ’08 election season is that it more useful for Republicans.  That is, the election of a Democrat looked likely, so Republicans would presumably value knowing more about this candidate than Democrats would value knowing about a candidate who had a smaller chance of victory.

Political Engagement: Casual vs. Junkie

This recently-published research shows that if you subscribe to one world view, you’re still likely to seek out information about the other side. This study, however, did not indicate whether this action is intended to strengthen your argument, to learn about the enemy, or to challenge your views, just that the readers of partisan websites were more likely to seek out opposing websites. According to this research, even a casual follower of politics engages in cross-view reading.


Garrett, R., Carnaham, D., & Lynch, E. A Turn Towards Avoidance? Selective Exposure to Online Political Information 2004-2008. (2011). Springer. Journal of Political Behavior. Accessed February 5, 2012.

Knobloch-Westerwick, S., Kleinman, S. Preelection Selective Exposure: Confirmation Bias Versus Information Utility. (2011).  Journal of Communication Research. Accessed February 12, 2012.

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