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Voters Turn to Web for Politics (Calbuzz Sets Pace)

Oct22

All but overlooked in the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll is some intriguing new data that shows a dramatic shift in how people get their political news in the state: web sites and blogs have now left newspapers in the dust as primary sources of such information.

“People more and more are getting their news and information about California politics and elections on the internet,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s CEO and director of the survey. “Television and newspapers are not what they used to be.”

The survey asked respondents to identify where, ”you get most of your information about what’s going on in politics today.” The results show that while TV remains the top choice for 37 percent of Californians, the internet is now in second place, at 24 percent, while newspapers lag  behind in third, with only 15 percent saying it is their main source for politics.

The findings cap a decade-long cultural trend: When PPIC asked the same question in 1999, 45 percent listed TV as their leading choice, while 30 percent said newspapers and only five percent pointed to the internet.

While the influence of political coverage in newspapers has sharply declined, however, there was some good news in the poll for the industry: Among those who use the internet for politics and elections news, 47 percent said they turn to newspaper web sites, only slightly fewer (50 percent) than those who said they use other types of websites (we name no names).

As for those who still consider newspapers their leading political source, nearly three in four (73 percent) said they read the paper version of the publication, a significant drop-off since 2007, when PPIC first asked the question, and 87 percent said they preferred the paper rather than the‘net.

The PPIC research is just the latest in an ever-accumulating mountain of evidence that shows the traditional MSM business model, which consisted of publishing or broadcasting a general interest news and information product to a mass audience which is then marketed to advertisers, continues to crumble.

With the rise of the internets, the mass audience has fragmented, and consumers now have a virtually unlimited number of niche news sources where they can find more in-depth and detailed information about specialized topics (we name no names).

The good news: a vast array of choices for readers and viewers. The bad news: consumers, citizens and voters never again have to read or watch something with which they disagree.

“People can now find many sources of information they agree with, instead of seeking a broader view,” said Baldassare. “The trend certainly has pluses and minuses.”

Late Edition: At our request, PPIC ran another crosstab which found that among those who have both a cellphone and land line, 34% get their political information from TV, 26% from the internet, 16% from newspapers and 11% from radio. Among those with a land line only, 62% get information from TV, 12% from the internet and 10% from newspapers. This is a HUGE difference and suggests that the shift to the internet for information is moving right along with the shift toward cell phones and away from land lines.

When it rains it pours: Speaking of digital technology, we can only hope that Her Megness found it amusing when her spokeshuman, the volcanic Sarah Pompei, made a one-letter URL error on a Twitter message she was forwarding from chief strategist Ned Beatty Mike Murphy, and accidentally directed the entire Golden State political press corps to a You Tube video of a Korean transvestite bass player.

The story about Pompei’s mis-tweet promptly went viral, though Calbuzz is not entirely certain that it counts as good news for a campaign in the closing days that the most popular message you put out is about a Korean transvestite bass player.

No word yet on who the guy is endorsing, and apparently no truth to the rumor that before he makes up his mind he’s demanding more info on eMeg’s position on intellectual property rights.

How dare you? Belated mega-kudos to our old friend Cathy Decker, High-Ranking News Sheriff and Ace Rewrite Person for the by-God L.A. Times’ vast political team, for neatly working the word “umbrage” into a recent analysis about the low-rent controversies, including the whole “whore” kerfuffle, that pockmark California’s campaign for governor:

It was not immediately clear who uttered the comment; the Brown campaign said it was not the candidate. The candidate was not heard disabusing the speaker, in any case.

Whitman’s campaign responded in full umbrage, calling the word choice “an insult to both Meg Whitman and to the women of California.”

“This is an appalling and unforgivable smear against Meg Whitman,” her spokeswoman, Sarah Pompei, said.

And yet the same Whitman campaign last June tried to dismiss as inconsequential reports that the candidate, during her tenure as chief of EBay, had cursed at and pushed a young woman underling.

Decker’s splendid adjectival construction provides an entry point into a re-examination of “umbrage politics.” In this silly political game, a candidate or campaign takes deliberately misconstrued, overdrawn or reductionist offense — of the “I’m shocked – shocked to find that gambling is going on in here” variety — at some statement or act by a rival (see: Fiorina, Carly; entire campaign).

Or as Michael Kinsley put it, in a lovely little piece called “Do People Really Want a Stupid President” over at Politico:

This puts us in the fashionable world of “umbrage politics,” where the game is to take as much offense as possible at something someone said or did. Usually this will involve giving the controversial statement or action an interpretation, or at least an importance, your victim obviously never intended and hiding the obvious fact that — far from being “saddened” or “outraged” — you are delighted to have this stick to beat him or her with.

Obama said that “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day” at the moment “because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.” (Columnist Michael) Gerson riffs on this: “Obama views himself as the neocortical leader —  the defender … of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains — the location of reptilian ritual and aggression.” In short, he takes this single sentence from the president, deconstructs it thoroughly enough to qualify for tenure in many an English department and calls the result “some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.” Then he goes to town.

We’re shocked – shocked!- to find that umbrage politics is going on in this campaign.

Final word on whore: Better late than never, Boston Globe columnist Joanna Weiss breaks it down once and for all. Let us not speak of this matter again.


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  1. avatar tonyseton says:

    Back in the 19th century, someone noted that where the railroad industry went awry was when they thought their business was railroads instead of transportation. Similarly today, the newspaper industry is confused about their mission which is the delivery of the news rather than the paper.

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