Friday, December 10, 2010

Studying the Disconnected

It's an old question -- is the public as politically inept as it seems, based on decades of research, or do we ask of them the wrong sorts of questions, in the wrong sorts of ways?

I don't have the answer.

But we are seeing a growing trend, that of studying the disaffected and disconnected, the tuned out and the apathetic, a stream of scholarly inquiry that flows from the work of Marcus Prior and others who point out that, thanks to the digital revolution, we have a million more entertaining ways to avoid the news.  And in that vein, this study examines citizens in 33 European countries to attempt to understand who are the disconnected.  They find both a micro and macro explanation works best.  Or as they put it:
The probability of tuning out is a function both of the individual traits of the citizen, but also a function of the supply of news in particular media systems. We find that there are large differences between the European countries when it comes to the degree of disconnected citizens, and that different national media systems can explain some of the differences between the European countries.
Without delving too much into the nitty gritty here, it has do with with significant differences across parts of Europe in social and political capital found in nations, the way the media operate there, and a host of other "macro" factors.  Micro factors matter too, of course, and the study provides insight on both.

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