How Do Liberals Learn About Politics?

Perhaps conservatives just enjoy the process of affirmation more, while liberals prefer to read informative, non-political material.

That isn’t to say conservatives are uninformed, but you’re basing your entire hypothesis on a VERY limited band of media - specifically, politically affirmating shows and books. Ann Coulter’s book and Michael Savage’s book and Rush Limbaugh’s books aren’t informative at all; they’re just “I am a conservative” rants, and reading them gives you warm fuzzies about being conservative but doesn’t really TELL you anything. You have demonstrated that many conservatives like the warm fuzzy feeling of listening to someone, or reading someone, tell them “you’re right, we’re right.” That’s not information. You have not addressed 99.99% of the information available.

I have a hundred or more books on history, science, and other studies in my apartment. Not a single one of them could be seriously described as either “conservative” or “liberal.” Most real information is not as sharply politically divided along American political partisanship lines as Bill O’Reilly or Michael Moore.

No one ever went broke overestimating the intelligence of the American public.

Seriously, man, this is the stupidest non-lunatic question I’ve seen in GD in a long time. Where the fuck do you think people to the left of Dick Cheney get the news? CNN, the local newspaper, World News Tonight, Newsweek, the Associated Press, and every other mainstream news source you can think of.

What, you think we need to be told what to think? Sorry, that’s your bag. I don’t consult with anyone. I read, I observe, I think. Try it sometime instead of regurgitating whatever damn fool thing you heard on Spin Factor.

The term “liberal” has a negative connotation these days.

Therefore, only a minority of liberals will admit that they have “liberal” views.

Mystery solved.

Maybe I should read the posts before repeating what someone else has already said.:smack:

This is just a reasonable guess based on my own experience, but I think that perhaps liberals are very likely to read material that takes a point of view different from their own (in addition to liberal material). That has been my policy since Conscience of a Conservative by Goldwater. William Buckley was always a favorite.

I use the internet for a lot of my news including sources from outside the US such as the BBC, The Guardian., and the websites for Amnesty International. And I try to find out what stories are breaking by scanning Yahoo news. Newsletters from have been helpful. Something makes me think that activists don’t spend a lot of time watching TV.

My information on environmental issues comes from the NRDC.

I watched Donahue once or twice a week and liked people he selected to interview very much. But the best political interviewer to my mind is Tim Russert.

I find Rush Limbaugh repetitive, ignorant and shallow. Bill O’Reilly is a little better, but from what I have seen of his program, he doesn’t particularly have a grasp of the issues – or, even worse, the opposing point of view. Mostly the show is about himself and about how stupid he thinks everyone else is. I have not found any really intelligent and thought-provoking conservative television programs. Most television programs are, in my opinion, dummied down for the masses. This is not to say that conservatives are unintelligent. Liberal activists may not be as likely to spend time in front of the tube.

Sometimes I watch network news and have a preference for NBC.
But, frankly, I am just as likely to learn things from SDMB threads and the links provided. If a subject catches my interest, I pursue information elsewhere.

Are conservatives better educated? I doubt it. Someone mentioned that academicians tend to be liberal. They also tend to be the ones with advanced degrees. But I suspect that CEOs are more likely to be conservative. They are also many well-educated conservatives.

I get my news from everywhere, not relying on one source. I kind of like to see an issue from all sides, and know what “the other side” is thinking. Almost every source has a slant, and only by looking at a story from many angles can you get the whole picture. Or, you could put it as “Know thine enemy.”

I read dozens of different magazines, some of which are not “news” publications, but have commentary on current issues. I read publications from the NRA, EPA, and various other organizations ranging from religious to liberal. I read magazines such as the one published by the AARP geared toward older people, and magazines which are targeted at a younger audience.

I check out several different newspapers online, from my local paper to *The New York Times. *

I watch CNN, FoxNews, CBS Evening News, and C-SPAN. I listen to NPR in the car. I even watch the * 700 Club * occasionally.

I check out web sites ranging from the deeply conservative to the wildly liberal. I go to watchdog-type websites frequently (but always attempt to verify the information.) I read the text of proposed legislation, and just for kicks-and-giggles, check out which corporations or interests contributed to politicians.

I’d hope neither most liberals nor most conservatives form their core political opinions based solely, or even in large part, on any source whose main goal is punditry, like many of the sources listed in the OP are. I just lived my life, read as much as I could, from as many unbiased sources as I could. I figured out as I grew up what was important to me, and fell gently into the political philosophy that seemed to cover that.

Well, if they are reading Reason and Capitalism and Freedom then there might be some truth to the idea that they are studying and honing their arguments, but I don’t think you can group reading Ann Coulter and Michael Savage in that category unless you mean “studying misinformation” and “honing absurd arguments”.

And, Sam, I admitted that my self-description thesis won’t explain all the data you pointed to but it might explain a good part of it. I don’t see why you want to dismiss it out of hand just because it would explain only about half of the pieces of evidence that you pointed to. It certainly is not the whole explanation…but I think it is a piece of the puzzle.

Are you guys even READING this thread? Or am I just seeing knees jerking all over the place?

2Thick Said:

The ‘mystery’ I addressed one message above. Read it.


Just not as much as conservatives, apparently. Did you read the cite? Even mainstream newspapers and network news shows are watched by far more conservatives than liberals. By more than 2-1. That’s the whole question I’m asking. I’m not claiming that Liberals don’t read or watch the news. I’m saying that, according to some very reputable cites, conservatives watch and read much more than liberals. The question is why.


Actually, I did. Did you read the PEW cite? It wasn’t addressing some miniscule portion of the media. It covered newspapers, magazines, cable news, network news, all radio (including NPR), morning news, evening news, shows like Larry King, The News Hour, network news magazine shows like 20/20, books, etc. If that’s 1% of the media, I’d like to know where the other 99% is.

It is a comprehensive study of the media. And the ONLY category they could find in which liberals outnumbered conservatives was in the ‘literary’ magazines like The New Yorker and Mother Jones.

Overall, across all media, Conservatives outnumber Liberals by a margin of 36-18. Exactly 2-1.

These aren’t my numbers, and I’m not drawing any conclusions. I’m just throwing them out there and looking for answers. You may think this is ‘stupid’, but maybe attitudes like that are part of the reason.

*Originally posted by Sam Stone *
Okay, I’m going to put on my December hat and ask a very inflammatory question that is guaranteed to drive the liberals here nuts.


This seems to imply you’re simply wishing to flame a political group, not ask a debate question.

They go to school. Or they come to excellent message boards such as this. And there’s always interpretive dance.

Nope. There’s absolutely nothing interesting going on in the media lately. It’s just coverage of Smackdown Iraq or whatever CNN is calling it these days.

I think you’ve given the answer right there. “Thoughtfulness” isn’t really going to garner good ratings these days. I don’t know if Donahue was thoughtful or not–I don’t have that cable channel. I’ll take your word for it. I have seen the O’Reilly Factor, however, and do not believe it is close to being thoughtful.

I have no idea if these figures are true. I’ll go ahead and say that they are. The question is, so what? Can you demonstrably prove that listening to political radio shows, where the host usually offers completely unchallenged opinions, makes conservatives more informed?

Oh, I see. Because Amazon’s best selling book list is dominated by conservative titles, that means liberals aren’t reading? Really? Do you see how illogical this is? Does it really require a fiery explanation to burn away this strawman? Heck, I could simply argue that liberals are buying conservative books in massive quantities just to bone up on what the opposing camp is saying. You’ve no way to refute that unless Amazon will offer statistics on its consumer demographics. Or maybe “liberals” just like to support their local library system.

I guess I could quote any number of culture critics, like Theodor Adorno or Raymond Williams, who argue that at any point in time there will be a dominant culture, a rising culture and a recessive culture. Now, interestingly, these critics argue that the group that is heard most loudly is always the recessive culture–it is the psychology of the losers needing to make noise. They want to give the appearance of dominance to hide the fact that most groups in the society no longer agree with them. Does that apply here? I do not know; it is just one academic circle’s theory. The Democratic or liberal agenda would be helped if the party would field a competent set of candidates.

Are conservatives more interested in politics? Off hand, I think yes. I think that’s the reason behind all the statistics cited. Do they think more about it? Maybe. But thinking more does not equate to being more thoughtful, or more analytical. Being obsessive isn’t necessarily the same as being educated.

Regardless, you really need to rephrase the broad question “Are conservatives more educated than liberals?” to something more specific like, “Are conservatives more educated than liberals on political matters?”

Not a self-identified liberal, per se. I voted for Gore, but I guardedly support an Iraq invasion. My main beef there is heavy-handed approach I perceive from the Bush administration. But that is another topic altogether. I get my information from several places, mainly the Internet and periodicals. I’m a Reference librarian by trade. I’m currently reading Jefferson Davis’ Rise and Fall of the Confederacy.

You’re right about that.

I think for all parties, there are serious thinkers and then there are twits. It is unfortunate for the Democratic party that many of the twits are musicians, for example, who feel the need to voice facile political complaints at public affairs yet lack the courage to actually put those messages in their recordings. On the other hand, you really come across to me like someone who considers anyone in disagreement with your opinion to be uninformed. That would be quite a statement to make about the millions of people marching against an Iraq invasion. Do you believe the majority these folks are just lemmings who haven’t heard any facts? Perhaps they have heard facts and simply, and intellectually, interpret them differently than you do.



Jshore: It may be part of it, sure. But we have some other correlations that suggest that it isn’t, or at least that it’s not a major factor.

And again, you’re marginalizing the issue by claiming this is all about Anne Coulter and Michael Savage. The survey was across all media. Not just the right-wing kook media.

I would suggest that we’re reading the thread just fine, and that your transparent bullshit attack on anyone who isn’t an imbecilic dittohead has elicited precisely the response you intended to provoke. But hey, that’s just my reading of your OP. I could be wrong.

Did you read your OP? You know, that part where you asked “[W]hat do YOU read? How do you get your information?”

Ask a stupid question . . .

Oh, for God’s sake. Okay, let’s rewind and state this more simply, without any rhetoric or tendentious prose.

According to a comprehensive survey of media conducted by PEW Research, Conservatives read and view it more than Liberals by a 2-1 margin. Not just conservative whack-job books, and talk radio, but everything. Newspapers, books, Radio, and television.

The simple question I’m asking is, why? And if it’s true, what are the ramifications of this?

I wish i brought up this point myself, that being: listening to the same repetitive ill-informed drivel does not constitute learning!

So, the OP is flawed in assuming that even given the premise that conservatives consume more conservative media products, that they are automatically more well-informed than liberals who consume less liberal-oriented material.

I would counter with the premise that, given a counter-assumption that liberals and conservatives are exposed to the political/historical media the SAME, that the liberals are actually better informed, due to a wider exposure to differing sources.

Please READ the cite. It doesn’t say that conservatives read more conservative material than liberals read liberal material. It says that, overall, conservatives read, watch, and listen to news source of ALL types than do liberals. Conservatives even listen to NPR in greater numbers than do liberals.

I don’t know why I’m bothering. Clearly, this pushes some buttons with some of you, and you’re overreacting. I never drew any conclusions from this. I even suggested that maybe it’s simply because liberals feel like they’ve ‘won’, and therefore feel less pressure to stay up on things. At no time did I suggest that liberals are dumber, or less intellectual, or anything else.

The fact remains that we have hard evidence that conservatives consume more news than liberals. I thought it would be interesting to discuss why that might be the case. If you don’t think so, fine. Let the thread die. But I’m not going to tolerate being called stupid or ill-informed for providing factual information worthy of a Great Debate, just because you might not like it.

Sorry if this has been said - My two cents is that liberals in America are less inclined to admit that they are liberals than conservatives. So surveys of readership/watchership are probably misleading/completely wrong.

Excellent post, RickJay.

The non-school, non-fiction books in my (admittedly abbreviated, since I’m going to law school three thousand miles away from home) personal library, in no particular order:

[li]The Federalist Papers[/li][li]The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates, Ralph Ketcham, ed.[/li][li]Measured Lies: The Bell Curve Examined, Joe L. Kincheloe, Shirley R. Steinberg, and Aaron D. Gresson III, eds.[/li][li]The Art of Comparative Politics, Ruth Lane[/li][li]Utopia, Thomas More[/li][li]The Prince, Machiavelli[/li][li]Archimedes’ Revenge: The Joys and Perils of Mathematics, Paul Hoffman[/li][li]Principles of Political Economy, John Stuart Mill[/li][li]The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith[/li][li]Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control…, Fred Friendly[/li][li]Freedom of Speech and Press in Early American History, Leonard Levy[/li][li]Essays on the Making of the Constitution, Leonard Levy[/li][li]Searching for Bobby Fischer, Fred Waitzkin[/li][li]The Clothes Have No Emperor: A Chronicle of the American 1980s, Paul Slansky[/li][li]Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas R. Hofstadter[/li][li]The Wish for Kings, Lewis Lapham[/li][li]On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency, Mark Hertsgaard[/li][li]The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, William Appleman Williams[/li][li]Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, James McPherson[/li][li]Justices and Presidents, Henry Abraham[/li][li]Waiting for the Barbarians, Lewis Lapham[/li][li]The System of Freedom of Expression, Thomas Emerson[/li][li]Verdicts Out of Court, Clarence Darrow[/li][li]Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann[/li][li]The Essential Lippman, Clinton Rossiter and James Lare, eds.[/li][li]The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker[/li][/ul]

Nothing too polemical, nothing nearly resembling Savage or Coulter or Limbaugh or Moore (the closest I have to that is Jim Hightower, back home, and even he’s a far sight away). All well-written, well-reasoned, full of interesting ideas or histories or theories. And, to follow up on what RickJay said, many of these books have helped to shape or strengthen my liberal philosophies–particularly Lapham, Lippmann, and Friendly. And I’m a passionate liberal, hopefully thoughtful, intelligent, and articulate. Whose books exactly would you have me buy on Amazon, Sam? What in the world can best-seller lists tell you about depth of thought (or even frequency of reading)?

Count me as one more who thinks the premise of the OP should be re-examined.

I didn’t PROVIDE a premise. I said I was open to theories. Are you people even reading this? I’ve haad to rebut Lobsang’s point three times now. How many times are other people going to try to make that same point?

Gadarene, you have the first valid theory here, and by extension Rickjay’s as well.

Is it possible that conservatives just have a narrower reading list, and therefore tend to drive bestsellers? It’s certainly possible.

In other words, if a liberal reads 1000 hours a year, and conservative reads 1000 hours a year, but the conservatives all read the same 20 books while liberals tend to choose from a 10,000 book reading list, then you’d expect to see lots of conservative bestsellers, even though they don’t read any more than do liberals. Under this theory, liberals would be more well-rounded and even better educated than the conservatives.

Now, how can we test for this? Any suggestions?

See? There’s a theory that doesn’t bash liberals. Now can you people stop jerking your knees and consider the question? Or are we done here?

Actually, per the cite–which I did read, thanks very much–it doesn’t exactly say this. What it says is, of those people who listen/read/watch X media outlet, a% self-identify as conservative, b% self-identify as moderate, c% self-identify as liberal, and d% don’t know. And a+b+c+d equals 100%. Got it? It’s not taking a population of liberals and a population of conservatives and asking them about their respective media consumption habits; it’s taking a group of media consumers (people who listen to Rush Limbaugh, for example) and asking them to identify themselves ideologically.

This is a subtle distinction, but it’s important–in part because the numbers show that for most of the media sources Pew lists, liberals make up a share of the audience in proportion with their numbers nationally. That is, Pew tells us that 18% of people nationwide identify as liberal, compared with 36% conservative and 38% moderate (where they got these figures I don’t know; I’m assuming, based on the way they’re presented, that they aren’t an aggregation of their media numbers). And for 15 of the 23 media sources they list, liberals make up between 16 and 20 percent of the audience polled. Those results are hardly surprising, are they?

The eight sources in which liberals comprised a disproportionately large or small share of the audience: 1) Rush Limbaugh, 2) “religious radio,” and 3) the O’Reilly Factor (all three of which are certainly understandable); 4) political magazines (in which both the conservative and the liberal shares of the audience are disproportionately larger than their baselines, with moderates taking the hit–also understandable, since political magazines are more likely to attract people with sharply defined political viewpoints); 5) CNBC (only 14 percent of its audience identifies as liberal, compared with 44 percent conservative and 33 percent moderate–I have no idea why this might be the case); 6) NewsHour (21 percent liberal audience share, essentially proportionate); 7) Jerry Springer/Ricki Lake (I don’t know why the two of them, and only the two of them, are combined, and I don’t know why 26 percent of their audience self-identifies as liberal); and, already mentioned by Sam, 8) literary magazines.

To the extent, then, that you’re using this data to suggest less liberals, proportionately, get information from all these sources than conservatives (and that this then says something about liberal and conservative habits in general), I’d suggest that you’re misinterpreting the numbers.