Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Something is breaking American politics, but it's not social media

Ezra Klein writes about a new study Something is breaking American politics, but it's not social media:

Their approach is simple. Using data from the American National Election Survey, they compare the most web-savvy voters (the young, where 80 percent used social media in 2012) and the least web-savvy voters (the old, where fewer than 20 percent used social media in 2012) on nine different tests of political polarization. The measures cover everything from feelings about political parties to ideological consistency to straight-ticket voting, and the data shows how polarization changed among these groups between 1996 and 2012. The results? On fully eight of the nine measures, ‘polarization increases more for the old than the young.’ If Facebook is the problem, then how come the problem is worst among those who don’t use Facebook?

I asked Gentzkow what he thinks might be part of the fuller picture. “I have two main hypotheses,” he replied. “One is stuff that has nothing to do with media at all but is structural, like increasing income inequality. The second is non-digital media, and cable TV and talk radio in particular.” The latter piece makes particular sense if you think about the fact that older Americans make up the base of both the cable and talk radio audiences. More than a third of talk radio listeners are over age 65, and half of Fox News’s audience is over age 68. As bad as getting your news from Facebook can be, it’s often far better than relying on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh.

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