Just the other day, Greenlily and I were discussing traffic patterns and user demographics of political blogs, but I was saying that I didn't know that there had been very much data collected at this point. I'm delighted to have been wrong. The growth in number of, and traffic to, progressive blogs is truly astounding, and as the study suggests, represents an invaluable opportunity for coordinated activism on the local and national level.
I may just be late to the party, but this is my also first introduction to NPI.
None of the study data surprises, me really. From the study:
The New Politics Institute has been established by people from across the country and across the political spectrum to help progressives succeed on the dynamic new battlefield of 21st century politics.
The New Politics Institute is a think tank for politics. Working like a conventional policy-oriented think tank, NPI will assemble some of the finest minds in progressive politics, the non-profit world and the private sector to study, master, incubate and promote new strategies, technologies and techniques for the rapidly changing politics of this new century.
The Internet has come to play an increasing role in political discourse and organizing. According to a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 33% of Americans have looked for political information online, and 15% of Americans have read someone's blog. Clearly, the netroots will play a major role in providing money, support, organizing and media exposure in the 2008 presidential contest.
Given the recent broadcast and print media scandals, and the ways in which the MSM has generally degraded into noise machines for their corporate ownership, it was only a matter of time before the internet became the bastion of citizen activism. Candidates in the upcoming mid-term and presidential elections will ignore blogosphere influence at their peril. As will voters, I believe. Before political blogging, it was easier to understand how people had a tough time fitting politics into their mad-busy lives. Now, however, insighful analysis and commentary is just a few clicks away. Being uninformed is no longer simple to justify, and I hope this ease of access translates into a measurable impact on voter turnout. It has the potential to be, I think, nothing short of revolutionary. Here's why.
I think die hard liberals and hard-core conservatives represent the "fringes" of their respective ends of the spectrum. There is an equally small number of true-blue centrists directly in the middle. The rest, and majority, are simply "habitual" Democrats or Republicans, choosing their affiliations very early in their political lives and sticking with them, mostly because they're too damn busy just paying the mortgage, raising their kids, keeping their jobs etc to be terribly passionate about politics at all. But these are the "sleeping masses" that need to be woken up.
My mom is a perfect example. She's been a registered Republican all her life. Not because she really pays close attention to what the GOP is doing or what they stand for here in 2005, but simply because she came from the old-school Republican generation of "small government". She's not hyper-conversant regarding Iraq, social security, economics, civil liberties etc. She's got any number of things going on in her life that distract her from paying much attention to political news and, if for no other reason than a shortage of time, takes what she hears on network news and pretty much runs with it. Even if I deny her credit she's due for more interest than is apparent, I don't know that she's aware of the available tools that would help her become genuinely informed about the nuances and battles currently being waged. Her husband was much the same way, as are the bulk of her friends, from what I've been able to gather.
I think she represents a HUGE contingent of the voting public, and really believe that their general lack of engagement with politics is what's fed the power gain of the GOP. A cursory glance of opinion polling seems to support the idea that those most vehemently opposed to say, gay rights, or legal abortion, really do represent a modest fraction of the whole. Trouble is, that fraction is VERY active, chummy with party leadership, and is actively steering policy with contributions,
(Mom, if you're reading, I hope you'll forgive me using your story as an example.)
Feel free to weigh in on my off-the-cuff analysis of political temperature of the vox populi if you've got an alternative take on the situation.
In the meantime, if you're even remotely interested in the "Emerging Blogosphere", check out the study results.