Has Social Media Made Us All Into Political Junkies?

Atrios today:

Once upon a time only weirdos like me (and you, dear readers) paid this much attention to politics. I documented the minutiae that most people weren’t aware of. Now everybody knows! Social media has led to a kind of “bleed” such that everybody is aware of all of the stupid shit that once upon a time only weirdos like me (and you!) were aware of. Even if you aren’t that interested in politics, the information comes at you like the Kardashians. I don’t know if this is good or bad. Once upon a time it was easy to tune out politics. Now it is impossible.

I think this is wildly wrong. At a guess, public knowledge of political comings and goings hasn’t changed in decades. The vast, vast majority of people pay only the slightest attention to politics, spending their time instead on soap operas, gossip magazines, kids’ soccer games, problems at work, trying to lose ten pounds, unpaid bills, pro football, the price of hamburger, and the guy down the street with the barking dog. Social media may have pushed politics into people’s faces a little more, but it’s also pushed all that other stuff into people’s faces a little more.

However, this seems eminently measurable. So how about it, political science types? What kind of survey data do we have that measures interest in politics beyond the superficial? What other indicators might provide clues? Turnout rates aren’t up. Small-dollar political contributions are probably up (?), but that’s still a minuscule portion of the population. Total viewership of news programs is probably down. What else?

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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