Friday, March 16, 2007

"Edwards And Obama: A MyDD - Dailykos Generation Gap?"

Chris Bowers:
This week, both Dailykos and MyDD held our monthly straw polls. You can see the results for Dailykos here, and the results for MyDD here. For both websites, it was the first straw poll taken without Clark as an option. It also produced the first widely divergent results between our two websites that I have ever noticed. While both blogs placed Edwards and Obama first and second, on Dailykos, John Edwards won a comfortable victory over Obama, 38%--26%, while on MyDD Obama won a narrow victory over Edwards, 36%--33%. Not only is that a large, fifteen point gap between the two websites, it is entirely possible that Edwards is even more popular than that on Dailykos (he was running at 40% after 10,000 votes) and that Obama is even more popular than that on MyDD (considering the Obama poll stuffing incident). While these polls are not scientifically random samples of the readership of the two blogs, I don't think the differences between them can be entirely dismissed on those grounds. Something more fundamental is causing this growing divergence.
In search of an answer, I went looking through the archives of the popular diary series "Demographic Tuesdays" on Dailykos, and through the results of the recent demographic survey of MyDD readers. In most categories, there was broad similarity: education level, income, religion, race / ethnicity, and GLBT as a percentage of the readership. There were only two areas where there was noticeable divergence. First, the readership of MyDD is much younger than that of Dailykos--almost twice as many MyDD readers are under the age of 30 than at Dailykos (30% to 15%), and the median age difference is at least eight years. Second, Dailykos has a much higher percentage of women readers than does MyDD. The Demographic Tuesday poll on the subject indicated a gap of 33%--22%, but previous polls I have seen on both sites suggest the gap is significantly larger than that.

The reason for this difference is probably one of voice. The best research I have ever seen on the subject (non-public research, unfortunately), suggests that even in the supposedly identity-blind world of the Internet, people gravitate toward content produced by those with whom they share cultural and demographic similarity. Looking at the three writers who produce about 95% of the front-page content on MyDD, Matt, Jonathan and myself, we are all dudes and have an average age of just under 29. Looking at the writers of Dailykos, there are six women among the sixteen regular contributors. Further, I am younger than twelve of them, Matt is younger than fifteen of them, and Jonathan is younger than all of them. Dailykos has both an older and a more female group of writers, which I believe is the main reason why they have an older and more female audience. That Dailykos has an older audience, I believe, why Edwards does better on Dailykos, and why Obama does better on MyDD.

Age and gender are both clear factors in 2008 candidate preferences among the Democratic electorate nationwide, so why shouldn't they also be factors within the blogosphere? Consider, for example, that the most comprehensive crosstabs of the Democratic primary electorate to date were published last month by Pew. According to those crosstabs, Obama did vastly better among younger Democrats than he did among older Democrats, while for Edwards the situation was reversed. It is not just Pew, either. Virtually every polls has shown Obama performing particularly strong among younger voters, wile Edwards does better among older voters. I can't prove it definitively, but I think the age gap between MyDD and Dailykos is one of the main causes, if not the main cause, behind the different preferences for Edwards and Obama in straw polls on the two sites. (There may also be a gendered element in the Dailykos preference for Edwards, possibly stemming from many feminist bloggers liking Edwards, although I do not really have any evidence to back that up at this time).

This may have already been obvious, considering Obama's ridiculous success on a generally younger site like Facebook. What was perhaps less obvious, and also only interesting in a meta sense, is that MyDD has a younger readership than Dailykos. Who knew? In discussions in the comments at Dailykos, the most common criticism I read of MyDD is how we are just too damn serious all of the time. Who would have thought that we young guys would also be more "serious." Then again, that might have more to do with the focus of MyDD than anything else, since we are geared toward political professionals, and Dailykos draws on people with a much wider range of backgrounds. People who make a living in politics tend to be on the younger side of things, as it is probably best to get out of this business before it beats you down too badly.

It is funny, in a Phillp-Frye-is-his-own-grandfather sort of way, that the "blogfather" has now somehow become younger than its offspring. It is even stranger when you consider that I got my start writing diaries on Dailykos, and then made the move to the older blog where Markos started writing. Ugh. It is probably because I should be asleep, but I'm getting a headache even thinking about that.

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