Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Who Populates the Seven Nations of Political Talk?

Those crazy statisticians over at Yale conducted a nationally representative survey a few weeks before the 2008 election looking at political beliefs and preference of talk shows. While many of the results are pretty predictable (more conservatives listen to Limbaugh, more young people watch Colbert), there were definitely some interesting, counter-intuitive findings in the results.

For example, Colbert draws by far the most conservative/Republican viewers of the the three left-leaning commentators in the study (Colbert, Stewart, and Olberman) and a full 23% of O'Reilly's viewers were planning on voting for Obama. I'd like to think the 22% of Colbert watchers who were planning no voting for McCain actually believe Colbert is a conservative...

This study also reinforces several other studies that have found those watching the left-leaning shows have much more education than both those who watch no news commentary shows and those who watch right-leaning shows. You can draw your own conclusions from that.

But what I find the most interesting is that the majority of respondents don't watch any of the shows in question. This could come from many reasons -- not having cable being high amongst them -- but could also represent a splintering of the general public. In interviewing renowned political sociologists Theda Skocpol yesterday for another fine podcast, she mentioned that one of the problems of the proliferation of media sources in recent years is that they tend to attract people who more-or-less already share their world view, while turning off those who don't. Thus, the majority of Americans who aren't into politics tend to simply tune it all out, to the detriment of shared public discourse. I'm not convinced that's actually happening, but the evidence seems to point that way...

1 comment:

Howard said...

I'm absolutely convinced that's actually happening. I think the majority of America (even the educated) don't watch anything political, simply because it's political.