Political blog readership – cause and effect

What does it mean that readership of political blogs in the US is politically polarized, according to a recent study of political blogs in the US. Readers on the right and left reading different blogs, and are more partisan than average Americans. Blogging isn’t a tool for discourse across the spectrum, but a tool for organizing and message-building.
Is the partisanship cause or effect? “We don’t know if blogs polarize their readers, or if highly ideological readers gravitate to blogs that reflect their partisanship.” A comment on Crooked Timber, group blog of one of the study’s authors has an insight. MQ writes, “I think this stuff is going to change over time. The blog world took shape at an extremely politically polarized time, and the polarization was still there in 2006.”
The connection between blog-reading and activism is supported by a multi-national study showing that blog readers in France, Germany, the US and the UK are more likely to be politically active. It would be interesting to find out how many of the the people reading and organizing using blogs have been partisan and politically active all along, and how many have been mobilized by blogs.
Personally, I’ve become more partisan as a result of reading political blogs, and a more active participant in electoral politics. I got involved in tech policy activism before the rise of political blogging; but the issues weren’t particularly partisan at the time. I’ve become more partisan in part because of the evolution of the right in the US toward defense of torture, government spying, aggressive wars, unlimited executive privilege and other radicalism. And partly persuaded by the argument by Markos et al that the attitude of reasoned nonpartisanship on the part of Democrats enabled them to be rolled by those negotiating in bad faith, the “bipartisanship is date rape” tactic. I admire the Obama campaign’s message of hope, but when Obama backpedals on his commitment to the constitution, the right strategy is to organize. It will be wonderful to contemplate varying points of view when the path to compromise isn’t “how much of the constitution do you want to give up.”
It would be exceedingly interesting to find out whether there are meaningful numbers of people getting mobilized to political activity through involvement in blogs and social media.

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