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Political science shocker! People click on headlines they agree with

June 12, 2009 |  2:09 pm

There’s a reason you’re reading this blog right now. And it’s probably because you agree with at least some of what we publish here. Mouse

That’s not arrogance on our part. It’s science.

Researchers at Ohio State University recently released a new study that suggests that people aren't looking for a wide range of perspectives when they tune in to the media. Instead, they're looking for views that conform to their personal beliefs. Who knew?

Researchers came to these conclusions after monitoring the reading habits of 156 college students. First, students were asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about their political views.

Then researchers tracked how the students spent their time reading online articles about gun ownership, abortion, healthcare and minimum wage. The articles reflected a variety of views, but students gravitated to the articles that had headlines that paralleled their own politics. The students spent up to 36% more time reading those articles, the study found.

This challenges the notion that more information will lead to better understanding among people of opposing views, the study's authors say.

"If citizens favor messages in line with their views and avoid opinion-challenging content, the cornucopia of media choices, on the Internet in particular, could hinder informed opinion formation, lead to a more polarized and fragmented electorate, and also reduce political tolerance," Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick and Jingbo Meng write.

The study's findings probably don't surprise anyone familiar with the political blogosphere.

Most opinion bloggers write for an audience of like-minded people, in insider language, and are not out to convert people of other political persuasions. Spend a few minutes with a blog like Daily Kos or Hot Air and you’ll see what we mean. 

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo: L.A. Times.

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