Capital Ideas Blog

Ideology and the internet

By Chelsea Vail

From: Blog

 Conventional wisdom says right is right, left is left, and never the twain shall meet when it comes to preferred online news sources.

But there is no evidence that the internet is becoming more segregated over time, according to research from Chicago Booth professors Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro.

In the latest edition of our Big Question video series, Gentzkow, Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School, and Jim Kirk, editor-in-chief of the Chicago Sun-Times, discussed whether the internet reflects or reinforces political opinions.

There is some superficial evidence of a politically segregated cyberspace. Leiter noted that right wing blogs typically reference other right wing blogs, and the same for left wing blogs, for example.

But one-sided blogrolls do not a phenomenon make. “While I’m on the left end of the spectrum, I tend to read far more right wing blogs,” Leiter said.
It could be that the internet is a good platform for vocal minorities, Kirk suggested. “The left will always read what the right writes, and vice versa,” he said.

If anything, technology has made it easier to access media meant for the other side, as well as engage across the aisle.

"If each person were to reach out and shake hands with one randomly chosen person on the same website, those handshakes would be fifty-five percent among people who have the same political views on a liberal-conservative dimension and forty-five percent among people who are opposite,” Gentzkow explained.


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