(Almost) Everything in Moderation: New Evidence on Americans' Online Media Diets

Abstract

Does the internet facilitate selective exposure to politically congenial content? To answer this question, I introduce and validate large-N behavioral data on Americans’ online media consumption in both 2015 and 2016. I then construct a simple measure of media diet slant and use machine classification to identify individual articles related to news about politics. I find that most people across the political spectrum have relatively moderate media diets, about a quarter of which consist of mainstream news websites and portals. Quantifying the similarity of Democrats’ and Republicans’ media diets, I find nearly 65% overlap in the two groups’ distributions in 2015 and roughly 50% in 2016. An exception to this picture is a small group of partisans who drive a disproportionate amount of traffic to ideologically slanted websites. Overall, the findings support a view that if online “echo chambers” exist, they are a reality for relatively few people who may nonetheless wield disproportionate influence and visibility in society.

Publication
American Journal of Political Science