July 1, 2008

"Liberals are more interested in listening to opposing points of view than are conservatives."

Says Jonathan Chait, interpreting this study and appropriately and humorously checking himself: "I'm going to wallow in smug self-satisfaction for a few minutes, then go over to the Corner to see if anybody has a rebuttal."

61 comments:

MadisonMan said...

Anyone can listen to an opposing view. But actually hear what is being said, and compare it to one's core values and evaluate which is better? That's rare.

dbp said...

I don't even need to look at the study to know that it is bunk.

George said...

I hear you, madison.

This morning in response to a financial blog item about global warming I posted a link to a Wall St. J. editorial. Just a link.

The blogger took down the link and called me a troll.

I'm more of an ogre really.

reader_iam said...

The pdf of the study report is 40 pages long.

I'll have to get back to you.

(Measuring Blog Readership starts on page 11 [page 13 of the pdf], though, in case anyone's interested.)

reader_iam said...

dbp: Is that a quip or a serious comment?

Eli Blake said...

readeriam:

Exactly.

Although I do like blogs like this one and Coldheartedtruth where you genuinely have both liberals and conservatives on and having open discussions.

former law student said...

financial blog item about global warming I posted a link to a Wall St. J. editorial. Just a link.

The blogger took down the link and called me a troll.


A WSJ editorial on (the absence of, no evidence for) global warming? Nah, that's not trollish. Next time post a link to The Christian Science Sentinel to a pharmaceutical blog, or a link to an Edward Said essay on Israpundit.

knoxwhirled said...

very few people read both left wing and right wing blogs. Those few people who read both left wing and right wing blogs are considerably more likely to be left wing themselves; interpret this as you like.

"Very few" in that first sentence sounds about right. If that second sentence is accurate, it'd mean the vast majority of trolls are lefties, wouldn't it?

Chip Ahoy said...

Liberals are more prone to be impressed with and to promulgate false polls and poorly conducted surveys.

Host with the Most said...

Hogwash.What a piece of shit "study".

I was once politically liberal, and now am somewhat more conservative.

I have had conversations with thousands of liberals and thousands of conservatives over the decades.

I cannot think of more than a handful of liberals - including when I was numbered among them - who would seriously listen and consider opposing viewpoints.

Even today, what politically up-front liberal commentator will entertain a real conversation with a conservative? And yet, I can tune in conservative radio hosts Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, and Dennis Prager and find on any given day a rousing but respectful exchange with someone who is politically liberal (and usually famous). Hell, Medved even had Barbara Boxer on once and it was surprisingly civil.

So where is your liberal commentator equivalent? Please. Some things aren't going to change.


A liberal who actually listens to the opposing side?

When Barack Obama choses a pro-life judge.

XWL said...

Mr. Chait is entitled to his interpretation.

But the study does say that MOST people who identify themselves as liberal, just as most people who identify themselves as conservative, tend to only read blogs from their side of the argument, however of the small subset of people who peruse both left and right blogosphere, that tiny minority seems to be mostly made up of liberals.

Chait spins this as ALL liberals are superior in their judgement, discernment, and openness to opposing viewpoints (which they then summarily dismiss, but at least they know the argument).

I have two other competing explanations:

1) You don't have to read the leftosphere to know what the leftosphere is up to, you just need to read AP, NYT, and watch MSNBC to know what left of center thought is. If the media is biased towards the left, then as someone of the right, it's redundant to bother to read the repackaged spin of politcally left bloggers when the original news stories themselves already are spinning counter-clockwise.

2) The rightosphere is better written. Lefty blogs are screedier, more politically correctier, and far more echo-chambery. Read one major lefty blog, and you've read them all. The right blogosphere is less homogenous, more contentious, which make them in the aggregate far more readable. Also, righty blog writers are more used to defending positions that aren't part of the 'mainstream' and therefore have learned how to be engaging, rather than repeating received wisdom. Left of center blogs tend to repeat the same tired arguments they learned from their 'radical' professor back in their college days (or are still teaching if they themselves are professors), while right of center blogs are used to being challenged, and therefore are sharper, and more likely to get to the freakin' point (I call that the anti-Greenwald syndrome).

The study is as much evidence of my two suggested interpretations as it is to Mr. Chait's.

Revenant said...

I don't have to visit blogs to hear the left-wing point of view. I can just turn on the television or read a newspaper. :)

reader_iam said...

Well, so far, I am gathering that however you slice it, I'm one of that rare, weirdo breed--who, I fear it will be concluded, therefore doesn't count.

Oh, well. I'll add it to the list.

Hoosier Daddy said...

"Liberals are more interested in listening to opposing points of view than are conservatives."

Yes of course at which point they refer to the holder of the opposing viewpoint as a 'racist, bigot, fascist, nazi, homphobe, Islamophobe, pick-a-phobe or Jesusfreak.'

"I'm going to wallow in smug self-satisfaction for a few minutes, then go over to the Corner to see if anybody has a rebuttal."

So he's admitting that he's a troll?

dbp said...

reader_iam said...
dbp: Is that a quip or a serious comment?

A little of each.

John Stodder said...

Depends on the conservatives. If you mean the defense and economic conservatives, the libertarians and the small government types, then I think they are, on the whole, more open to opposing points of view, and to adapting their points of view when challenged with a logically convincing argument.

The same cannot be said for social and religious conservatives, though. Like most liberals, social/religious conservatives' beliefs are handed to them in a package by their peers or families. There is fear of taking the package apart -- chaos will result!

I've always thought that the reason social/religious conservatives and liberals hate each other so much is because they are identical in their narrow-mindedness, despite being opposites in their belief systems.

To me, the question of being open to argument is central to deciding with which political group I align myself. To me, it seemed like liberals were more open when I was younger. Conservatives were rigid and doctrinal. I drifted away when liberal practice became a boring process of asking serious questions and getting either half-baked talking points or ad hominem in return.

Maybe I'm unusual. I think I spend about equal time on conservative and liberal blogs. But only on liberal blogs are my comments ever taken down, and that happens all the time. I find it chilling. It makes me think the liberal commitment to free speech has weakened.

I mean, I'm not surprised when Digby goes into an Invasion of the Body Snatchers troll frenzy when someone disagrees with the line of the day. But Brad DeLong, an economist from my alma mater, who wrote what I took to be a serious blog, pulled down some very mild comments, the kind of thing nobody here would regard as trollish. Brad DeLong! Who knew?

Anyway, these kinds of polls come up all the time, and they all have the same general results: Liberals are better people. But out in the real world, nobody really believes that. The roster of the worst, most unethical or hypocritical skunks I've ever known in business is dominated by liberals, and I'm sure I'm not unusual.

Simon said...

Chait is obviously correct. If there's one thing that is a hallmark of the most popular leftosphere blogs -- Kos, MyDD, OpenLeft, etc. ad nauseum -- it's their heterodox user base and the forum they provide for airing opposing points of view. Why, they have folks there who favor impeaching Cheney right now and folks who'd rather wait until after the election to do so! (The allusion is to the Blues Brothers, where a waitress tells Jake that they have "both kinds of music: country and western!" The waitress, too, would no doubt laud her own open mindedness for such broad tastes if she were a lefty journo.)

Doyle said...

I think the "right wing blogs are just better" explanation is the most likely.

dbp said...

Okay, I haven't read every word of the 40 page study, but I think Chait is mis-interpreting what the study says:

"The minority of blog readers who read both left and
rightwing blogs participate at rates that are statistically indistinguishable from those
of readers of leftwing blogs."

The study is talking about participation in politics. Leftwing readers and those who read both sides participate more. As I said, I only skimmed the document, but I don't see where they categorize crosscutting readers.

AJ Lynch said...

John Stodder:
Libs are the most unethical on average huh? That is an interesting observation.

Simon:

Good one about Cheny and impeachment and Blue Bros vignette.

Here is one for you that most libs would not find ironic. A month ago, the Philly sheriff called a moratorium on home foreclosures by banks.

Yet yesterday, the newspaper reported the city had acclerated the pace of home foreclosures due to homeonwers not paying their real estate taxes. Is that hysterical or what ?

Kirby Olson said...

Mugabe, Kim Jong-Il, Stalin, Ceausescu, Pol Pot, Mao: men of the left who are eager to hear opposing viewpoints. Let a hundred flowers bloom.

dbp said...

They don't mention this in the text (that I can find). But the most relevant data is in Fig. 5 pg 34.

I would have to look at how they come up with definitions since by some measures left and right readers are more liberal, and in others it appears more mixed.

Quayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ricpic said...

Liberal shit smells sweeter, too.

AJ Lynch said...

In the survey PDF, the Drudge Report is grouped with LGF and Malkin in the Top Three Conservative blogs??

Versus Top Three Lib blogs of Kos, Huffington and another I can't think of.

The grouping is not apples to apples to me. Drudge is its own unique animal. Drudge is really not a blog is it?

Kirk Parker said...

reader_iam,

Can't it be both?

Quayle said...

I don't by it.

So how does Chait explain the conservative speakers that get shut out or shouted down at university campuses?

How would he explain what we all know is the left’s reaction to people that disagree on key issues.

To be specific, I oppose gay marriage. I do so for personal reasons which I would describe as love and concern for both the children and the gay person and their full potential as humans.

But you and I know full well that (a) gays aren't interested or accepting of my concern and would openly mock it, (b) gays will say I am and can only be motivated by hate, and (c) gays would openly and blatantly mock me and call me a homophobe and an ass hole and a whole lot of other unsavory names, before I even finish setting for my world view.

We both know that these reactions are not what anyone could reasonably describe as kind consideration or openness. And yet this is very much the mainline reaction of the left that lauds themselves as open.

It is clear that this "study", and the left’s self-congratulated kindness, just doesn't pass the man-on-the-street-experience test.

Michael E. Lopez said...

This is just an off-the-top-of-my-head thought, but couldn't we just say that this study shows that conservative points of view are generally more interesting and entertaining?

blake said...

Lefty blogs are screedier, more politically correctier, and far more echo-chambery.

XWL, whatever the sentiment, I just love this sentence.

I think John Stodder is right as far as social cons and far leftists having bundled ideas that they can't give up without unraveling the whole shebang. I think that's why they convert so rapidly from one side to the other.

Social cons tend to be more civil. Not always, to be sure, but they're more likely to have some personal reservations about language, e.g.

Ann Althouse said...

Including Drudge has got to throw the whole thing off.

MadisonMan said...

Quayle said...

I don't by it.

I'm sorry, this made me laugh. I'm an awful person.

Joan said...

MadisonMan said:
Quayle said...

I don't by it.

I'm sorry, this made me laugh. I'm an awful person.


But that's why we love you!

I think Revenant's succinct reply is, as usual, on the mark. It's amazing how often I agree with him even while holding diametrically opposite views on a number of big issues.

Yachira said...

"Liberals are more interested in listening to opposing points of view than are conservatives."

On its face, the above statement is total bullshit. Poor Jonathan...

AJ Lynch said...

Yeah Ann - see page 17 where they talk of the six most popular policical blogs. Liberals are those who read Kos, Huffpo and Crooks and Liars. Conservatives are those who read Drudge, Malkin and LGF.

I must be a liberal as I visit Huffpo but never Malkin or LGF.

Mrs. Winifred Waverly said...

It's the Fourth of July, and nary a mention around here.

Business as usual.

Did you learn nothing from the Christmas fiasco ?

paul a'barge said...

Chait?

Mr "I hate George W Bush with a passion"?

Smug?

You don't say!

Methadras said...

This is practically a non-sequitor. Excuse me while I chuckle a little.

TMink said...

From a prominent blogger at the Daily Kos: "This is
not a site for conservatives and progressives to meet and discuss their differences.
... Conservative debaters are not welcome"

Says it all doesn't it? I found the study long on suppositions based on other research and short on hard data. One of the discriminant variables, numbers of political acts, does not have much discriminant power at all.

And then there is the fact that this is all based on self report. No hard data to speak of. And I am a psychologist, a soft science if ever there was one!

A simple question would be to find out if liberals self report as tolerant while conservatives are less likely to. It reminds me of the ad for a roomate that made it around the web a couple of years ago: No smokers, no tv watchers, no Republicans, no Christians, no plants, no pets. Tolerant people only.

Trey (who you can ignore because he is an intolerant Jesus Freak. From the South no less. Oh yeah, and white. And male.)

Robert Holmgren said...

Nothing like a pat on your own back to buck up one's spirits eh Jonathan?

John Stodder said...

I should hasten to add that while I know a lot of liberal skunks, I also know a lot of people with sterling character and charming personalities who are liberal, too. And I know a few who do a lot more than talk the talk. Two of the most admirable people I ever met were a pair of sisters who were attorneys working with Legal Aid on a project to restore state funding for home visits for the elderly disabled. Couple of smart, tough ladies who, with their educations, could have been pulling in six figure salaries but instead worked full-time helping helpless, abandoned people.

I'm just saying liberal good intentions don't predict liberal good character. All sides are prey to weasels.

Spread Eagle said...

Like most liberals, social/religious conservatives' beliefs are handed to them in a package by their peers or families. There is fear of taking the package apart -- chaos will result!

Funny, I count social/religious conservatives among the most tolerant, open-minded, and genuinely caring people to be found. I suspect you're just reacting to a stereotype that was spoon-fed to you.

Partridge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Synova said...

As a generalization it doesn't really work, but I've noted before that the most adamant and close-minded seem to be adamant and close-minded about whatever they believe. People can be "religious" about being non-religious.

On the other hand, people who believe the same *things* can believe them in a different *manner*. Not all social-con religious sorts have those closed habits of mind. Not all anti-religious sorts insist on being obnoxious crusaders for the cause.

Quayle said...

Madisonman, you are perfectly correct to laugh. I am a rotten speller in general, a horrible speller when I type fast, and a terrible self-editor.

Say-la-vee, as we say in Paris, Texas.

What do we live for but to be laughed at by our neighbors, and to laugh at them in our turn.

John Stodder said...

I suspect you're just reacting to a stereotype that was spoon-fed to you.

You suspect incorrectly.

They're open-minded? About everything? Maybe we're not talking about the same people. I'm not talking about religious people, certainly. I'm talking about social/religious conservatives.

Revenant said...

Nobody is open-minded about everything.

John Stodder said...

I was referring to the hot-button issues, such as abortion, gay marriage, the role of religion in government. If someone deemed to be a social conservative is open-minded about those issues, then that would surprise me. It's not something I've run into.

MadisonMan said...

I would've read right by it and not laughed if your moniker wasn't Quayle.

Pogo said...

The reductio ad absurdum of these self-aggrandizing articles extols the superiority of a Democrat Native American lesbian raised by her atheist African-American grandmother in France, who despite the blindness resulting from setting a bomb at the Chase Manhattan bank in 1971 works tirelessly as a day labor organizer. On weekends she performs abortions in her mobile green medical trailer powered entirely by waste oil from nonprofit soup kitchens across the US.

She makes quilts from discarded clothing, donating them to the local woman's shelter where she volunteers, sharing her history of sexual abuse to teach others. She doesn't own a television, but is a frequent commentator on NPR about rescuing animal companions from medical laboratories and training them to search for missing children and comfort hospice patients.

But lacking that apogee of humanity, we have the Dali Obama instead.

TMink said...

John, some of us Jesus freak whack jobs (I proudly count myself in that group) are quite able to separate our religious beliefs from our expectations of government. Jesus did, and I count that as a fine example for me to follow.

Having said that, I expect you to vote your conscience, and I hope you expect the same of me. As a believer in smaller government, it is completely consistent for me to wish that the government leave me alone and to leave you alone as well.

Abortion is not a religious issue for me, it is a personal one. I was adopted in 1960. Had abortion been legal, I might not exist. Nothing in my religious tradition or spirituality insists that I oppose the murder of the innocents. Actually, I am also against the death penalty for fear of the same slaughter.

My name is Trey, it is nice to meet you.

So now you have met one.

Trey

Henry said...

The data reveled by the study is hardly surprising; it jibes with similar studies showing that television news viewers split the same way. The issue is in interpretation.

As co-author Henry Farrell says at Crooked Timber (comment 14 under the "this study" link in Ann's post):

...having the data doesn’t mean that we can make the call – evidence of correlation not telling us that much about causation (we’re pretty careful throughout to emphasize that our data is insufficient to get at underlying causal relationships).

Jonathan Chait, into the breach!

And if he can't validate his inchoate ego at the Corner, I'll offer him a few more theories for him to rebut.

1. Liberals are more likely to be coastal knowledge workers or college students than conservatives and thus have more time to peruse blog sites, leading eventually to perusing a greater number of blogs. Hopefully the study corrected for time spent browsing.

2. Liberals, being younger, are easily bored by themselves and thus more likely to knock around the blogosphere out of sheer ennui. Hopefully the study corrected for age.

3. Conservatives are funnier. They go to the Internet to mock. Liberals go the Internet to argue. Funny attracts. See 2.

4. Liberals validate their egos by winning imaginary arguments. See Chait, above.

5. Idiosyncratic liberals (Althouse) and libertarian (Megan McArdle) bloggers that attract both left- and right-leaning commenters are classified by studies such as this as conservative. I haven't seen the paper, so I don't know this, but I wonder...

Host with the Most said...

When was the last time you had a conversation with an "open-minded" global warming believer?

Spread Eagle said...

I was referring to the hot-button issues, such as abortion, gay marriage, the role of religion in government. If someone deemed to be a social conservative is open-minded about those issues, then that would surprise me. It's not something I've run into.

So in the little corner of the parallel universe you occupy anyone who, after careful consideration of the pertinent polemics, concludes that abortion and gay marriage is wrong, well, they're just closed-minded. That about sum it up? Like I said, stereotypes spoon-fed to you.

Super-Electro-Magnetic Midget Launcher said...

I've never yet had a political discussion with a liberal who had even even a basic grasp of what the opposing view was.

If you're patient enough to stick at it through the shouting, the endless attempts at changing the subject, the urban myths and outright fantasies presented as "facts" (no, children, a hunting rifle is not a machine gun, and even if it were, it would still not be a magical death ray), and the barrage of irrelevant and self-evidently absurd personal attacks, sometimes, in the end, they may actually listen when you tell them what you actually think (for the fifteenth time). When that happens, they often calm down a lot and start discussing the issue like civilized people.

They're frightened, confused, and emotional. Be patient. Talking to a liberal is like taking a cat to the vet. It's utterly counterproductive to get pissed off at him for panicking. If he scratches you, it's nothing personal. You're the the one with the opposable thumbs. Somebody's got to keep a level head and calm the poor creature down, and that's you.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am frankly not surprised at the results - my experience is just that, that self defined liberals want to think highly of themselves through their belief in their dispassionate debate and review of the facts. Never mind that liberalism is primarily emotional to start with.

But the results of this study do not correspond to the reality that I see in the blogosphere. Rather, in cross-over blogs, like this one, my overall impression is that it is those on the left who more quickly escape from debate on the merits and resort to name calling and the like.

Of course, as a economic/ libertarian conservative, I characterize this differently than do those on the left. For example, I see the left failing to argue on the merits every time I see: Bush is stupid (well, Gore and Kerry were more so, according to their tests and grades), Cheney is evil, Halliburton, chimp, shrub, Fascist, Nazi, illegal war, illegal wiretapping (except at Volokh or Balkin), war criminals (applied to Cheney, Bush, et al.), Christianist, fundamentalist, racist, sexist, homophobe, etc.

Of course, the level of invective is dependent upon the forum. Ann keeps things fairly well under control here, which is why a lot of us participate. I think that Volokh is more so, with the worst taunt aimed at me probably being that my argument wasn't colorable (turns out, the poster who accused me of that has developed somewhat of a reputation for exactly that sort of argument).

I find all sorts of educated illiberal thought when trying to discuss issues with those on the left. Two members of my family, with probably 7 college degrees between them,have used almost all of the tags and words cited above when discussing politics with me.

So, I would suggest that it is all in the eyes of the beholder. I have read LGF maybe twice, and only read Malkin when cited by Reynolds, and then don't read the comments. The invective and lack of substantive argument is as lacking there as it is lacking at Kos, etc. An echo chamber is just that, whether on the right or on the left.

TMink said...

Super etc, I think you are correct about SOME liberals, but certainly not all. Many liberals have an attachment disorder that makes them physiologically aroused around conflict and they cannot think because their orbitofrontal cortex is not mediating the panic from their amygadla.

Most of them grow up in single parent homes and they are more prone to attachment disorders because of that. They see the government as an extension of the powerful mother they wished they had, and the role of maternal government is to provide succor, nourishment, and comfort.

Having said that, your advice about remaining calm and patient is spot on.

Trey

Bruce Hayden said...

Let me suggest that the poster who suggested that the young leftists who have so much time to do their research are actually some of the worst offenders at sliding from debate to invective. There are a number of issues that cannot be debated rationally with this generation.

Pundit Joe said...

As a conservative, I'm interested in what works. If you come to me with a new idea or new data, I'm willing to listen.

Sadly, most policy ideas on the left are not new and have been tried again and again with little success. I'm not unwilling to listen to opposing view points - I'm just tired of hearing the same old arguments for failed policies.

Fen said...

Chait spins this as ALL liberals are superior in their judgement, discernment, and openness to opposing viewpoints

If "liberals are more interested in listening to opposing points of view", then why are their arguments so lame? The liberals here go through an Army of Strawmen daily.

Chait's bit reminds me of the occasional chest-thumping articles we see from the Left about how much more "intelligent" they are. Much like the high school punks always declaring how "good" they are at bedding women. Real men know there is no need to boast; they let the women speak for them. Its much more effective.

Likewise, any "interest in opposing points of view" from the Left would be demonstrable.

Fen said...

If you're patient enough to stick at it through the shouting, the endless attempts at changing the subject, the urban myths and outright fantasies presented as "facts" (no, children, a hunting rifle is not a machine gun, and even if it were, it would still not be a magical death ray), and the barrage of irrelevant and self-evidently absurd personal attacks -

Echo. Liberals routinely shout the opposition down with a machine-gun barrage of misrepresentations. I think they recognize that the more distortions they can get in, the less likely you'll be to address their primary argument. If they have one. More often, I feel like they are defending a "brand".

El Presidente said...

This post has been removed by the committee for internet purity.