Friday, December 19, 2008

Helluva POQ

A great new issue of Public Opinion Quarterly touches on many of my favorite topics: political knowledge, false consensus, innumeracy, trust in government. I've blogged about several of these already and so I'll top off my week with false consensus.

I love false consensus, always have. It's the idea that people project their own opinions and behaviors on the public at large. In other words, if I enjoy police procedural novels, I am more likely to overestimate how many people out there also enjoy police procedurals. Magdalena Wojcieszak takes the false consensus concept on the road and online to examine neo-Nazis and environmental extremists (what lovely groups) to see if the concept holds up.

It does.

For example, those participating in neo-Nazi online discussion boards overestimated how much people dislike progress in equal rights.

Part of this is due to the fragmenting media environment in which crazy people, or mildly nutso people, can group together in common cause and this selective exposure to similar others makes participants more likely to overestimate how much people agree with them. If I hang out on a discussion board of police procedural fans, my sense of the climate of opinion out there will be skewed and I'll think more people like them than really do.
(as an aside, read Ian Rankin's John Rebus novels. Bloody brilliant)

So it's a good issue of POQ for me. Good blogging material, and stuff I like to read and think about. If they'd only included a research article on the best Christmas gifts to get your wife I'd be really really happy.

No comments: