In Divided America, Partisans Read Different Books, Watch Different Videos

Interesting article in Slate by Bill Bishop, “America’s Partisan Reading List,” that reports on work done by social scientist Valdis Krebs. Krebs has made elaborate charts showing how political books purchased at Amazon cluster together. These charts show clusters of books and show that liberal readers choose books from the universe of liberal books and conservative readers buy books from the universe of conservative books.

In the past there have been “connector books,” that were purchased by both camps. Past “connector books,” included, “What Went Wrong,” “Sleeping With The Devil,” “All the Shah’s Men,” and “Bush At War.”

Now there seem to be no connector books.

Bishops says this clustering of books is indicative of how, as a nation, we are separated: “We read apart, live apart, watch apart, blog apart, and drive apart; we are one country that lacks any shared experiences or, it seems, common purpose.”

Bishop writes, “Given a choice, people will go to places where their beliefs are reinforced. In a recent study of Yahoo Finance discussion boards, three University of Texas business professors found that stock-pickers cluster. Those who think Apple is going up talk to each other on one thread. Those who think GE will fall even more find their way to the same little spot on the Web. Technology doesn’t help people find new ways of thinking or seeing the world — even when it might be in their financial interest. We still hunker down with those who hold our opinions.”

Bishop refers to this interesting web-site that has a great chart that shows how You-tube videos also “swarm” — some downloaded by liberal web-sites and blogs, some downloaded by conservative web-sites and blogs. Most popular on liberal sites is Wassup, downloaded by 209 liberal web-sites and only 21 conservative web-sites. Most popular on conservative sites is Obama 2001 comments about Redistribution of Wealth, downloaded by 452 Conservative sites and 51 Liberal sites.

A few videos were in the middle. “Take Me On,” a clever music video, was downloaded equally by liberal and conservative sites. And “Chimpanzee Rides Seqway” was equally downloaded.

“Chimpanzee Rides Seqway”

“Take Me On”

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1 comment to In Divided America, Partisans Read Different Books, Watch Different Videos

  • Stan Hirtle

    Interesting stuff.

    Obama particularly if he wins will have his work cut out for him. How do you reach across the aisle to people who think he’s a Marxist, a terrorist or the antichrist, or who call him all these names Some people have a long list of questionable negatives against him, not just that they like this tax plan, that health care plan, or this war plan better. Are they going to rethink them? What about their long list of grievances?

    “Technology doesn’t help people find new ways of thinking or seeing the world — even when it might be in their financial interest. We still hunker down with those who hold our opinions.” Technology makes it easier to avoid being challenged.

    Why is this? Some kind of insecurity in an insecure world?

    Someone noticed that many of the “liberals” and “conservatives” have strong moral views of right and wrong, but hold strongly to their side and degrade the views of the other side. Whether it’s taxes, multiculturalism, bigotry or whatever. My sense is right and yours is worthless. Why does this happen? Why the disconnect? Why do all the churches, supposedly dealing with the big picture of right and wrong, get focused on small and highly limited issues. Gays? Israel? Women priests? Stem cells? Within the church of conservatism it seems like a moving target of to what loyalty is demanded. Stem cells? Terry Schaivo? Sarah Palin? Why is this?

    The videos that are downloaded evenly by liberals and conservatives are somehow universal. The chimp, as usually happens in chimp movies, represents the reckless and disobedient child that runs off (rolls actually) and has fun, (the voices of authority are all in Japanese, so they sound to us like they do to the chimp, meaningless gibberish to be ignored), doesn’t get hurt, and ends up in the arms of its “parent.” Not an accurate picture in our highly regulated age of homeland security. The other video has romantic fantasy, escape from a crumby diner, motorcycle racing, beautiful young romance, and a fight between good guys and bad guys where there is suspense but no harm is done, with some nice soft rock and roll thrown in. Again what we are missing in life?

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