New Study and Online Tool Provide Insights into US Political Process

In a new study published in the American Behavioral Scientist, researchers compare political blogs and show that blogs from the conservative right are less collaborative and more individualistic than those on the liberal left. The researchers analyzed more than 150 political blogs selected from a 2-week period in 2008.

In effect, readers on the right are treated more as traditional media consumers: They play a relatively passive and marginal role in producing the primary content. Users on the left have a more active, productive role, blurring the production-consumption distinction and, through this, increasing the probability that the left wing of the blogosphere incorporates a wider range of views than a more centralized model.”

—Researchers Aaron Shaw and Yochai Benkler

According to the authors, the left-leaning blogs they studied generally encouraged more interaction, such as opportunities for speech and discussion and collaborative site management. In addition, blogs from the left presented more content that was based in opinion. The right-leaning blogs were more hierarchical and were less likely to rally readers to action.

Web Site Automatically Monitors Election Coverage

A new online tool, Election Watch, can detect patterns in US election news coverage.

An online tool developed by academics at the University of Bristol‘s Intelligent Systems Laboratory, Election Watch is able to analyze the vast amount of US election news being churned out worldwide. Election Watch automatically monitors news about the 2012 US presidential election from over 700 outlets. The online tool currently includes data from more than 91,000 articles.

The number of news articles devoted to the US election is so large that no exhaustive analysis can be attempted by conventional means. Even if just focusing on the leading English-language outlets, there are hundreds of thousands of articles to analyse just for the primary phase. So any large-scale analysis of global coverage will necessarily need to make use of computational methods. However, most computational approaches to news content analysis are limited to sophisticated forms of keyword counting, be it for sentiment analysis, or topic detection, and relative statistical analysis. This will necessarily miss many aspects of the narration to which voters are exposed, and which may therefore be of interest to analysts.”   

—Nello Cristianini, project leader and professor of Artificial Intelligence, Intelligent Systems Laboratory, University of Bristol

The online site presents “narrative patterns” that have been extracted from election news. Election Watch users can surf election coverage by exploring automatically generated and interactive political statements rather than entering keywords. For instance, users could browse the tool to find examples where Romney is described as criticizing Obama.

For more about the political blogging study, see

Learn more about Election Watch at

Election Watch is available at High-resolution images, a small video animation, a link to the paper, and the live demo website can be found at

Where do you look for balanced and rational election coverage?

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.


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