A study out this month by Yochai Benkler, in which he and his team used Harvard’s Media Cloud to analyze 1.25M stories published online between April 1st and election day last year, is equal parts fascinating and alarming. It reveals that those who read and retweeted pro-Trump stories from partisan sites (most notably Breitbart) during the election period were less likely than their pro-Hillary counterparts to also retweet ‘traditional’ media like the WSJ or The Washington Post. Gradations of red represent the share of the sites stories that were retweeted by those readers that also retweeted @donaldtrump at some point in the period under study, blue the share of stories retweeted by those who retweeted @hillaryclinton, and green is bi-partisan, meaning stories tweeted from those sites have more or less equal numbers of readers who re-tweeted each candidate.
In addition when they analyzed sites along a continuum of political affiliation, the researchers found there were more sites on the center-left than center-right. The graph clearly reveals the asymmetry in the partisan web.
So what did this study make me think?
- That I am entirely grateful for folks like Bill Gates who funded the Media Cloud; we are lucky to have such tools with which to analyze Americans’ reading patterns and their effect on our political discourse.
- That this may explain the hostility that Breitbart and co continue to show traditional media; a lot of their followers do not pay attention to the mainstream media and this asymmetry certainly served @donaldtrump well.
- That the editors and writers of The Hill are in a unique position to lead the 4th estate for this era.
Study credits: Yochai Benkler – Full article here: