As wired Americans increasingly go online for political news and commentary, a new survey finds that the internet is contributing to a wider awareness of political views during this year's campaign season. This is significant because prominent commentators have expressed concern that growing use of the internet would be harmful to democratic deliberation. They worried that citizens would use the internet to seek information that reinforces their political preferences and avoid material that challenges their views. That would hurt citizens' chances of contributing to informed debates. The new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the University of Michigan School of Information survey belies those worries. It shows that internet users have greater overall exposure to political arguments, including those that challenge their candidate preferences and their positions on some key issues. The conclusions were drawn after respondents were asked if they ever heard some of the major arguments for and against George Bush and John Kerry, the Iraq war, gay marriage, and free trade. Consistently, internet users, especially those with broadband connections, had encountered the most arguments, including assertions that contested their views. That was true after statistical tests were performed that controlled for other factors, such as the reality that internet users have higher levels of education than non-users and are generally more interested in politics.
I keep telling my worried friends, at home and abroad: No matter what differences I--a New York City soffisticut--have with the mainstream of my fellow Americans, I still have faith in their common sense and decency. I believe most of us are going to see the jingoistic noise machine for what it is, I really do. If a hundred million of us just vote our pocketbooks and civil liberties, we're gonna be all right. Just my personal dumb-ass opinion and reason to be cheerful for the day.