How politically segregated are the networks of the internet?

by on April 14, 2010 at 12:10 pm in Data Source, Political Science, Web/Tech | Permalink

For all the complaints you hear, internet reading is much less segregated than the networks of our work, family, and friends (all given formal measurements in the paper).  Jesse Shapiro and Matt Gentzkow report:

We use individual and aggregate data to ask how the Internet is changing the ideological segregation of the American electorate. Focusing on online news consumption, offline news consumption, and face-to-face social interactions, we define ideological segregation in each domain using standard indices from the literature on racial segregation. We find that ideological segregation of online news consumption is low in absolute terms, higher than the segregation of most offline news consumption, and significantly lower than the segregation of face-to-face interactions with neighbors, co-workers, or family members. We find no evidence that the Internet is becoming more segregated over time.

Here are some details:

The average Internet news consumer’s exposure to conservatives is 57 percent, slightly to the left of the US adult population. The average conservative’s exposure is 60.6 percent, similar to a person who gets all her news from The average liberal’s exposure is 53.1 percent, similar to a person who gets all her news from The isolation index for the Internet is 7.5 percentage points, the difference between the average conservative’s exposure and the average liberal’s exposure.

News consumers with extremely high or low exposure are rare. A consumer who got news exclusively from would have a more liberal news diet than 95 percent of Internet news users, and a consumer who got news exclusively from would have a more conservative news diet than 99 percent of Internet news users.

…Visitors of extreme conservative sites such as and are more likely than a typical online news reader to have visited

This is one of the best papers on on-line media.

1 Gabe April 14, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I would be curious what the anti-military industrail complex websites are classified as… is mostly libertarians)…… all of these were tireless enemies of the Bush administration..primarily for the foreign policy and drug war issues.

This thoughtless classification system is tiresome. I’ll go read the paper now to see how they addressed this problem.

2 Gabe April 14, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Yes I am filled with vitriol…it’s a yin yang thing…I have much love too.

3 Jim April 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm

If you’re going to call Rush Limbaugh extreme, you have to call the NY Times crowd (Krugman, etc.) extreme as well.

Equally vitriolic, and equally useless, IMO.

4 Gabe April 14, 2010 at 3:00 pm

check the appendix Lord…you don’t count either. Anti-war types, Libertarians, Cosmotarians, anti-drug war, anti-statist, Voluntarism, free-market monetary policy advocates(anti-fed), people in favor of free trade with Cuba or the elimination of “trade sanctions” as a weapon…none of them count. Only or sites….this is strictly red team vs blue team crap.

5 bbartlog April 14, 2010 at 3:25 pm

LemmusLemmus, Gabe addresses this by looking at the traffic volume. If you’re going to look at internet media consumption, it’s crazy to look at and ignore some of the larger libertarian opinion sites. It just didn’t fit the authors’ scheme, so they didn’t do it.

6 Gabriel Rossman April 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Jim Webster had similar findings a few years ago about television channels. More generally it’s similar to the Elberse and Olberholzer-Gee finding (with dvd rental data) that true “niche” consumers are rare, as consumers of niche products tend to also be voracious consumers of mainstream products.

7 Bill April 14, 2010 at 7:14 pm

CNN liberal? Wolf. Wolf.

8 k April 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm

“journalism was invented for sake of argument…. there is nothing more easy than to show they are incompatible…. everyone read the journal of his opinions, every spaniard talk to himself…. a journal is the voice of a party , always saying to himself : Saint, Saint.”
Donoso Cortes, the man to whose thought Hayek said he was closer.

9 Gabe April 14, 2010 at 9:34 pm

It is truly amaaing how quickly the d-team turned in to warmongers since Cheney left office.

10 not_scottbot April 15, 2010 at 6:13 am

CNN or NYT liberal? Sure, if you only measure the U.S. – which is certainly exceptional in having no major media source that one would describe as liberal in the mold of the Guardian, much less left in the mold of the TAZ or LibĂ©ration. But then, how many American Internet readers now visit the BBC or English Spiegel edition to get the sort of information which the American media is resolute in not presenting?

11 mulp April 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm

So, if as I understand it, a website of DNA data or star data used for research which would almost certainly be visited by those self classifying as liberal, while a website of gossip which I’m guessing would be heavily visited by self classifying conservatives, the conclusion is factual data is liberal while likely false claims is conservative.

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