April 26, 2006

Surveying the readers of political blogs.

BlogAds surveyed readers of political blogs. Here are the composite results, and here are the results for Althouse.

Does anything surprise me? A lot of my results are close to the composite. I was surprised that only 12.29% were lawyers or judges. I guess lawprofs check the "education" category (5.08%), and law students check the "students" category (7.63%). Adding all three categories, you get 25% (which includes nonlaw teachers and students). Not as much as I thought. I like having a mix of readers, so this is nice to know! I have more engineers than teachers, strangely, and quite different from the composite.

I guess the political breakdown is important:
Apolitical -- 1.75%
Democrat -- 10.92%
Republican -- 35.81%
Libertarian -- 25.33%
Independent -- 25.76%
Green -- 0.44%
More than half my readers are libertarian/independent? And Democrats do not love me. But I already knew that.

ADDED: Am I low in the "teachers" category because Democrats do not love me?


Dave said...

How representative of your readers are these statistics? I, for example, and a regular reader and commenter, but was not aware of this survey until you chose to report on it.

Not sure that any valid conclusions can be drawn from such surveys. They seem methodologically flawed.

Jon said...

Since I didn't take the survey, I report that I consider myself a left-leaning independent, and I am a lawyer and former teacher, and I am a faithful reader.

Ann Althouse said...

I did a post asking people to take the survey, so it's kind of an indicator of hardcore readers.

Sebastian said...

I'm not surprised by the large number of engineers and computer professionals. I'd be willing you'd find that on every blog.

We sit at computers all day, and popping over to the browser or RSS reader for a few minutes is a nice mental break from work.

Bruce Hayden said...

Definately methodologically flawed. I probably comment here as much as almost anyone, and wasn't polled. I supose that, given that I actually use my own name, they could have tracked me down, but that won't work for many here.

On the other hand, the political breakdown doesn't seem that out of line here. Ann probably never expected to pick up that many Republicans + Libertarians (over 60%) merely by coming out, after a lot of deliberation, for Bush in the last election.

Ann isn't like a lot of us. I had decided months, if not years, before hand, how to vote in the last election. The only Democrat running whom I would even have considered voting for was Joe Lieberman, and he was knocked out early.

I like the mix, because there is enough diversity to make it interesting, but Ann manages to chase off the trolls from both sides because of their incivility.

But one reason that I suspect the methodology is that if those responding are representative of her readership, I would expect more liberal readership. Maybe closer to 25% instead of less than half that. I suspect though that many whom I see as liberal, see themselves as independent.

And, yes, I am in the 12.29%.

JohnF said...

I'm sure you get fewer lawyers than the more purely legal sites (e.g., Volokh).

It's your non-legal/cultural posts that keep a lot of your readers coming back, and may leave lawyers and judges to look for other sites.

But, who knows? I'm a lawyer, and I like your non-legal stuff. Except American Idol. Yuk (shiver).

Joe said...

I missed the survey too. Also a lawyer, a right leaning independent. At the computer all day because I do appellate work.

Bruce Hayden said...

I find it interesting that a majority of the commenters here to the post on the demographics of this blog are in the approximately 1/8 of those surveyed who are lawyers.

Could this be because lawyers like to talk more than most?

Simon said...

I'm not sure how to put this delicately, but you've pointed out yourself that Althouse is not a blawg, and that you have no desire for it to be a blawg. Why, therefore, would it be surprising that most readers are not in the legal profession? I mean, one would expect a site like Volokh to have a high level of readership from lawyers and academics, becasue it's a blawg; sure, it talks about other stuff, but its primary focus is law. Althouse is a blog, which happens to be written by a law prof, and which sometimes talks about law. If that's the goal, why is it surprising, then, that the number of legal types is closer to that which one would expect on a blog than on a blawg?

katiebakes said...

Wow, look at the part with the magazines and newspapers, where they ask if people read them in print or online.

Clearly skewed because this is an internet community answering the question, but still - the NY Times one is especially eye-opening, as is the fact that more and more magazines are now being read solely online!

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: I think lawyers like a mix of things and are smart, broad-minded persons with lots of interests, not people who just follow law. (And, yecchh, I hate the word "blawg.")

Dave said...

Ann, I think you're missing the point about the validity of the conclusions reached in this survey (or any online survey). Regardless of whether you did a blog post about it or not, these types of surveys rely on a self-selected group of respondents.

Self-selected populations do not yield valid conclusions about the larger set of all blog readers.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: That's why I inserted the "kind of."

Dave said...

Ann: Fair point.

Close reading is probably a reason why I am not a lawyer.

CB said...

Agreed that the survey is fatally flawed. Too bad, because I am curious about this kind of thing.

If anyone cares, here are my demographics:
White male, married, in my 30s, one child on the way, college grad, law student, moderate conservative. I live in the midwest and have all of my life. I get my news from NYT & WaPo online. The blogs I read regularly, other than Althouse, are: Volokh, Political Animal, Overlawyered, The Corner, Asymmetrical Information, Best of the Web Today, Instapundit. I also read Arts & Letters Daily, uh, daily. The only things I buy online are books & CDs from Amazon--maybe $200 a year.

howzerdo said...

I think it is interesting how your readers (at least the ones who responded) differ from the population who anzwered the survey. In addition to being more likely to be lawyers than educators or Republicans v. Democrats, your readers reported being more educated, read more blogs, and read them for better perspective.

I did respond to the survey, and I remember being struck by the list of magazines offered as choices - I subscribe to a lot of magazines, and not one of them was listed!

Richard Dolan said...

Dave is exactly right in saying that "Self-selected populations do not yield valid conclusions about the larger set of all blog readers." You'd need a random sample of readers, properly weighted to be reflective of the population you're trying to measure, before you could draw any meaningful extrapolations from the survey sample responses to that entire population.

It's odd that, even with a well educated readership, bogus conclusions become convincing if you just put them in numerical form (to two decimal places, no less) -- 12.29% are in category X. There is no reason to think that the figures in this survey provide an accurate snapshot of Ann's readership -- the truth could just as easily be 2%, 20% or 40%. If the figures in this survey are even close, it's just a function of dumb luck -- you'd do just as well by guessing based on intuition.

These points are all pretty obvious, and thus it's odd that a junk survey like this nevertheless still has the power to persuade people who know better. It seems that numbers just add their own powerful magic.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I think lawyers like a mix of things and are smart, broad-minded persons with lots of interests, not people who just follow law.

Yes, this liberal/independent lawyer appreciates the mix and finds highly-focused "blawgs" can get a bit tiring.

Ann Althouse said...

Richard: The most impressive numbers have $ in front of them, which is what BlogAds is really about. They are trying to get something that will convince people to advertise on blogs.

Ann Althouse said...

JOE: Thanks. Law is a great place for a smart person with general interests. You deal with all sorts of real-world problems. The facts of a case could be about anything, and you need to be able to jump in and get up to speed on something to work with it.

Dave said...

Here's a good Wikipedia article on statistical literacy.

Ann, I think you're exactly right when you say that the utility of these types of surveys is to convince companies to spend their ad dollars on the blogads network.

Much of online advertising is based on the fallacious notion that intelligible conclusions can be drawn from non-randomized surveys conducted online.

Tom C said...

I am a Dem, not Conservative, certainly not Liberal. Most of the commentary here seems incredibly balanced or, dare I say, non-political. I like the law articles as I'm a dilettante (sp?) and the UW articles are fun because my son is in the final throes of choosing a school (we're down to Middlebury vs. Dartmouth) and insights that don't involve selling to me or him are interesting.

But American Idol is the limit...you can't even make me read it if there's a link to free money buried inside.

Richard Dolan said...

"Richard: The most impressive numbers have $ in front of them, which is what BlogAds is really about. They are trying to get something that will convince people to advertise on blogs."

Yes, of course. Three points. No one in this thread has such a financial interest, but the numbers from the survey are still being given some level of credence when they have none.

Second, I doubt that "people [who] advertise on blogs" are so numerically illiterate as to miss the obvious reasons why this survey is junk, Despite that, BlogAds must believe that putting bogus claims in numerical form works. At least here, the "willing suspension of disbelief" really describes one's reaction to statistics, not drama.

Third, anyone who uses junk surveys like this to sell anything had better be careful. A couple of years ago, I tried a false advertising case before Judge Jack B. Weinstein (EDNY, and a sharper judge one would be hard to find), where the case focused on the use of bogus statistical claims of usage that the defendant had incorporated into its sales and ad campaign to sell pages in a telephone directory. (Verizon Directories v. Yellow Book, 338 FSupp2d 422). The judge found liability, and along the way ripped into the witness from the Harris Organization for the really flawed surveys that they had conducted for the defendant to support the claims the judge found to be false.

So if BlogAds are using this survey as you say, they better watch out.

Simon said...

Dave said...
"How representative of your readers are these statistics? I, for example, and a regular reader and commenter, but was not aware of this survey until you chose to report on it."
Well, that you - and I think others, too - didn't notice this survey being advertised here is part of the challenge for companies trying to generate revenue advertising on blogs. I scarcely even notice that there are adverts on this site; my eye just skips over them, and I suspect I'm hardly alone in that. Of course, one is aware that they are physically present on the page, but I have no idea what they say, still less what they are advertising.

PWS said...

I think your true political beliefs are not easily discernible. Nor are your views predictable. In my mind, I link the low # of Democrats back to an earlier observation you made about a certain amount of intolerance and vitriol that comes from some liberals against those who disagree with them.

Dave said...

Simon: Agreed about the ads and not seeing them.

Madison Guy said...

Advertisers on blogs, as in other media, allocate their dollars based on readership information. BlogAds surveyed the readers of numerous blogs and the data is being used more in a comparative than absolute sense. From that point of view a lot of the sampling error drops out, as all the respondents share the same bias -- namely, a predisposition to respond to online "offers," which is just what the advertisers want.

I, for one, hope this kind of survey gives them data with sufficient accuracy for their purposes. The alternative is for blogs to start requiring registration with contact and demographic info, the same as other online media. Who wants that?

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: It wasn't an ad that took you to the survey. It was a link in a post, with me saying please take the survey.

Ann Althouse said...

I mean Simon, not Dave.

Jacques Cuze said...

Oh please, what is different between blogad's methods and what any trade magazine does when you apply for your "free registration?"

Sure it's self-reported, sure it's skewed (I reported my occupation as CEO Amazon), but it is seen as a reasonable self-report of folks most-likely to click.

The only failing I see is the inability to breakdown politically independent or libertarian between:

a) I am Republican but embarrassed to admit it
b) I am a true independent, I vote however Rush tells me to vote
c) I am a libertarian but embarrassed to admit it.

P. Froward said...

Self-selection is a huge issue here. Dems will have been underreported since half of them believe the Facist [sic] Rethuglikkkaliburtoncons of Bu$hilerburton's Amerikkkaburton will ship 'em off in cattle cars to be gassed the minute they admit who they vote for.

Mind you, I'm not saying they're wrong. I already called Rovelerburton at the White Houseliburton and told him I want dibs on Quxxo for a lampshade (by the way, Q., Rovehitler can see you under your bed, too, so you may as well crawl out and sit upright for a change — your back will thank you). Gotta plan ahead, guys.

CB said...

You need to add:
d) I am a conservative who is disgusted with the current incarnation of the Republican party--that is to say, even more disgusted than usual--and refuse to associate with it at least until election time when--like I always do--I will hold my nose yet again and pull the lever for them.

reader_iam said...

I want to emphasize a point MadisonMan made about the survey (which is self-selected and has all the issues noted): It's going to be used for COMPARATIVE purposes. That's the key concept.

I did self-select to take this survey, and I think it's sort of fun to look at the results of the entire self-selected group and compare.

Finally, am I the only one here who deliberately clicks through ads on sites I regularly visit, as a payback to the blogger for the work he or she does?

I mean, you know, after all ... .

Ricardo said...

I'm surprised that people are quibbling over the reader-politics stats here on the blog, for they seem pretty representative of the voting public. A relatively small percentage on the wings (both right and left) will vehemently proclaim themselves to be diehard and embattled Reps or Dems, while a majority of the country prefers to view themselves in some shade of "independent" or "libertarian", concerned about cross-party issues (the economy, security of the country, the environment, religious issues, family values, etc). As I travel, I'm often amazed how "liberal" I find Republicans in many parts of the country, and how "conservative" I find Democrats. The media (and pollsters) struggle to put us into these neat categories, but most Americans are more thoughtful, and intelligent, than the media believes.

Ricardo said...

And what I forgot to add above, is that Ann is an excellent representative of this "thoughtful and intelligent" middle group, and so it seems natural that a large cross-section of readers would be attracted to her blog.

Coco said...

It would be nice if there were truly even 1/3 as many libertarians as represented by the self-selected group in this sample.

Maxine Weiss said...

"Law is a great place for a smart person with general interests."---Ann

Such a booster, cheerleader, our Ann is! She knows who butters her bread.

The truth: If one isn't going to go to med school, what else is there, but law school?

I wonder if there are any law professors with enough chutzpa to tell it like it really is:

Law School--A holding tank for those without other options----IMHO

(We can tell it like it is, here, right?)

P.S. Time to ditch the Podcast, Ann. All that work for nothin'!

Ann Althouse said...

Law school, a holding tank? Law school only takes 3 years and provides an extremely useful credential, with many options. You may have noticed that I never elaborate on the subject of how fabulous it is to be a law professor. I think it would disturb people! And let me say that, undergrad, I majored in fine arts.

Maxine Weiss said...

Booster booster.

I want to hear about the edgy, dark side of law school/law.

There's a former law student, Cameron Stracher, who wrote a good memoir "Double Billing"....read it about 4 years ago, also read his other book...can't remember the title (It takes a lot to get me to read something that's not in large print)....

Anyway, he's on Blogger !!!!


Compliment: What I love about Ann's is that it leads to other things......

Law Students:..... they all aspire to become the next John Grisham/David Kelley/Cameron Stracher ????....

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...



Peace, Maxine

Ann Þø said...

Remenmber that:

97.568 %
of stats are in error by 4.27 point in 45.89245 % of the cases

Verif : zzonmil

vbspurs said...

Damn, I'm sorry I didn't vote in this survey.

How are you doing, in the "talkative would-be medical student on sabbatical" category?

Gotta be better than the librarian percentile.


Maxine Weiss said...

Hint: Imagine how many more visits you'd get by ditching the American Idol blogging.

Peace, Maxine

chuck b. said...

Darn, I missed this post until just now. I wanna know who the four people are that read Soldier of Fortune!

That was quite the ironic/hip magazine to read when I was in college.

chuck b. said...

I discern two distinct populations of Althouse blog readers (surveyed). The 26% who regularly read a few blogs (5-7) every day, and the 60% who read MANY, MANY blogs every day (upwards of 25!!!).

The picture's a little murky when you look at the weekly hours of blog reading reported. People tend to pick multiples of 5; the histogram shows local maxima at 5, 10, 15, and 20 hours. That sounds dubious. Perhaps Althouse readers think in efficient, "round" numbers.

Although a few of us did a little calculation to get our numbers (9?).

Most interestingly, the larger prime numbers are strongly avoided--noone reported 11, 13, or 17 hours of weekly blog reading!

chuck b. said...

And RSS and podcasts clearly remain in the hinterlands of blog consumerism.

chuck b. said...

Yeah, if you check the Althouse results against the composite, you see the same embrace of 5x's and avoidance of 11, 13, and 17.


chuck b. said...

And I love that so many people blog to keep track of their thoughts. Because what happens when you don't? They just slip away.

How can that interest be better exploited commercially? Because it looks like more and more people want to keep track of their thoughts every year.

Or maybe they don't. Maybe people just say they want to keep track of one's thoughts because it sounds better than the truth. Whatever that might be. "Yeah, keeping track of my thoughts. That's what I wanna do."