Selection Bias: How Many People Read Political Blogs?

Harris Interactive reports:

One always hears about a blog breaking news before the “mainstream media” actually covers it. But are people really reading these blogs? The answer is no, as over half of Americans (56%) say they never read blogs that discuss politics. Just under one-quarter (23%) say that they read them several times a year and just 22 percent of Americans read blogs regularly (several times a month or more). These are some of the results of a nationwide Harris Poll of 2,302 U.S. adults surveyed online between January 15 and 22, 2008 by Harris Interactive.

Kevin Drum ponders:

Maybe I believe this survey after all. But no. I really don’t. I mean, 22%? Surely this number has been heavily skewed upward by the fact that this poll was conducted online, right?

Right! Selection bias is a distortion of evidence or data that arises from the way that the data are collected. Self-selection bias occurs when the characteristics of the people which cause them to select themselves in the group create situations where a biased estimate of the general population is created. What percent of adults neither respond to online polls nor read political blogs? In other words, what percent of the entire population read political blogs? This survey really does not tell us that. Kevin does point us to James Joyner who divines from the survey:

So, we have a survey showing that 44 percent of Americans read political blogs occasionally and 23 percent read them several times a year. Among those who do, 78 percent find them as accurate or more accurate than the mainstream press and 82 percent find them as valuable or more valuable than the mainstream press. Yet the story is framed as blogs being inaccurate and less widely read than some might think?

So maybe the message is that those of us in the minority who actually do read political blogs should tell our friends to join us as they will be more informed than those who trust cable news – especially that station we call Faux News.