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

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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. If online “echo chambers” exist, they are a reality for relatively few people who may nonetheless exert disproportionate influence and visibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1007-1022
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Volume65
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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