The Myth of Digital Democracy
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Is the Internet democratizing American politics? Do political Web sites and blogs mobilize inactive citizens and make the public sphere more inclusive? The Myth of Digital Democracy reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the Internet has done little to broaden political discourse but in fact empowers a small set of elites--some new, but most familiar.
Matthew Hindman argues that, though hundreds of thousands of Americans blog about politics, blogs receive only a miniscule portion of Web traffic, and most blog readership goes to a handful of mainstream, highly educated professionals. He shows how, despite the wealth of independent Web sites, online news audiences are concentrated on the top twenty outlets, and online organizing and fund-raising are dominated by a few powerful interest groups. Hindman tracks nearly three million Web pages, analyzing how their links are structured, how citizens search for political content, and how leading search engines like Google and Yahoo! funnel traffic to popular outlets. He finds that while the Internet has increased some forms of political participation and transformed the way interest groups and candidates organize, mobilize, and raise funds, elites still strongly shape how political material on the Web is presented and accessed.
The Myth of Digital Democracy. debunks popular notions about political discourse in the digital age, revealing how the Internet has neither diminished the audience share of corporate media nor given greater voice to ordinary citizens.
Duplicating the analysis above in the 2004 sample, using party identiﬁcation instead of liberal-conservative self-placement, still shows a leftward skew in Web usage. As expected, strong Democrats are signiﬁcantly more likely to visit political Web sites; yet so are strong Republicans, though by a smaller margin. Those who identify strongly with the Republican Party show larger and more consistent advantages in political Web usage than ideological conservatives did in the preceding analysis. The
machine. Kerry ultimately raised $83 million online, more than one-third of his fund-raising total ( Justice 2004). Yet the best evidence that Dean was not a ﬂuke, but rather part of a seismic shift in the U.S. political landscape, comes from the 2008 election cycle. As this book goes to press in early 2008, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is still undecided, while McCain has clinched the Republican race. Many parts of the campaign are difﬁcult to assess at such an early date,
content returned by search engines. Therefore, in each category, we analyze both seed sets generated by Google and seed sets taken from the human-categorized Yahoo! directory. Ultimately, both the Google and Yahoo! seed sets lead to the same conclusions. Results The six political topics examined are quite different from one another, and our research design introduces many sources of potential heterogeneity. The level of consistency in our results is therefore all the more striking. All twelve of
The Democratic Party’s decision to give thirty-six bloggers media credentials at the 2004 Democratic National Convention was declared a ‘‘watershed’’ (Perrone 2004), and was widely covered.2 But the single most important incident in winning the blogosphere respect was the scandal that some bloggers branded as ‘‘Rathergate.’’ On September 8, 2004, CBS News broadcast a report on George W. Bush’s Vietnam era Air National Guard service. CBS claimed to have unearthed documents showing that Bush had
background, education, and occupational history. The fact that this survey was able to be conducted at all shows that bloggers are an accessible bunch. The large majority of them were polite, friendly, and eager to respond to the queries of a social scientist. This fact is particularly remarkable given the massive volume of e-mail that most of these individuals receive. Unlike any other area of political discourse, it is common for bloggers to write under pseudonyms or just their ﬁrst names. Of