Monday, July 14, 2008

Who Listens to Political Blogs?

Why blog?

That's the first thing that came to mind yesterday upon reading John Sides and Eric Lawrence at the Los Angeles Times, "
Who Listens to Blogging Heads?":

Daily Kos. Little Green Footballs. Talking Points Memo. Instapundit. Firedoglake. Captain's Quarters. These are among the thousands of political blogs that are increasingly a factor in U.S. politics. Bloggers and their readers are courted by politicians, as occurred when seven Democratic presidential candidates appeared at the August 2007 convention organized by the readers and posters at Daily Kos, a liberal political blog. Bloggers can also shape the news surrounding election campaigns. It was Huffington Post, a liberal political blog, that first reported Barack Obama's comment about small-town Americans clinging to "guns and religion"....

How might political blogs and their readers affect the presidential campaign?

They will not change many voters' minds because the vast majority of their readers are already members of the choir and hold strong opinions about politics. Sodon't expect political blogs to make Democrats vote for John McCain or Republicans embrace Barack Obama. If political blogs change opinions, they will more likely do so indirectly -- by uncovering new information that is then amplified and discussed in media that reach a broader, and less partisan, cross section of the public.

Read the whole thing, as well the additional discussion at The Monky Cage.

A good rebuttal to Sides and Lawrence is at Flopping Aces, "
Political Blogs and Influence: Just How Important Are We?"

This tendency to see a minimal influence of blogs is not new.

Last weekend we saw a really interesting exchange of blog posts on the question of "
Do Blogs Suck?" The catalyst for the debate was David Appell's total dismissal of political blogging, with special reference to Matthew Yglesias:

Over the last six months or so I have been getting very frustrated with the blogosphere, and I find myself reading less and less of it. There just isn't much meat out there. Amateur bloggers just seem to spread useless gossip. And what's especially bad, "professional bloggers" seem so intent on posting 20 times a day that all of their individual posts are basically useless, conveying nothing whatsoever...
Read the whole post for more, although I'd hazard that Appell's take is extremely narrow.

I'd argue there's more "meat out there" than ever, although one might differ on what kind of meat we're talking about. Blogs and blogging essays rarely rise to the level of hard political research. I see the blogosphere mostly as a world-wide op-ed page in which everyone can contribute.

And all of this is new and growing. Perhaps only a small number of blog posts have a great impact on political debate, but the fact that the political system is deeply sensitive to what's happening across the blogosphere is perhaps a more telling indicator than survey statistics on reader preferences.

As for myself, I'm just having fun, and if I find myself having an impact, then that adds to the thrill of it all. This morning my post on Barack Obama's New Yorker controversy got picked up at
RealClearPolitics, which is probably the most important aggregator of political commentary on the web:


The Truth About ACORN - Betsy Newmark, Cross Tabs
Schumer Owes the Public an Apology - Erick Erickson, Redstate
Are Political Blogs Important? - Mata Harley, Flopping Aces
Obama and 9/11 - Byron York, The Corner
Downplaying Their Differences - Steve Benen, Crooks and Liars
The Elite-Radical Fist Bump from Heaven - Donald Douglas, American Power
KS-Sen: Roberts Gets Worried - Jonathan Singer, MyDD
Jindal and Teaching Creationism in Public Schools - Ron Chusid, Liberal Values
When Memes Collide - Nate, FiveThirtyEight
Obama on Iraq and Afghanistan: A Friendly Critique - Juan Cole, Informed Comment
So, while individual bloggers might not have the same impact as book authors or scientists, blogging certainly invigorates the marketplace of ideas, and folks can have a lot of fun in the meantime!