In the past decade scholars have begun to study the influence of political blogs on many fronts including the mainstream media. In that vein score one today for Bluemassgroup. A reader post by johnk Wednesday on BMG titled Disgusting Robo Call by “the 99 percent” appears to have played an important role in Stephanie Ebbert’s Boston Globe story today titled Treasurer of PAC led by ironworkers union halts pro-Lynch robocalls that evoke bombings. It also may have helped lead the Lynch campaign to denounce the robocalls, which in turn lead the PAC to pull the robocalls. Not a bad day’s work, BMG.
Let me exhibit a note of caution by stating that it is not clear what brought Ebbert to the story, which may have been her own sources and not the April 24 johnk post on BMG. (I did notice the post on Wednesday though). But halfway down into the story Ebbert credits the BMG post: “The recorded message apparenty (sic) backfired with some Democratic voters. One person posted on the liberal blog, Blue Mass Group, that the wording and timing of the call ‘lost him my vote.’”
Blogs are a hot topic among political scientists who study communications and media. Henry Farrell and Dan Drezner argue that even with the rise in political blogging this form of communication still has very limited influence, especially when compared with more traditional media, not to mention the parties, interest groups, PACS, and independent expenditure groups. But a consensus has formed that blogging is increasing in influence. Farrell and Drezner acknowledge that “A key reason they are important is that journalists and opinion leaders are readers of blogs.” Farrell, Henry and Daniel W. Drezner. 2008. The Power and Politics of Blogs. Public Choice 134:15-30.
Deva Woodly argues that the appeal of blogs to media and political elites has had an impact much larger than the modest size of blog readership might suggest. In fact, “the important question in terms of political communication may not be how many, but who.” She writes that political blogs may “have effects that are quite disproportionate to the absolute numbers of participants because journalists, elected officials, and other influential elites are consuming them.” Woodly, Deva. 2008. New Competencies in Democratic Communication? Blogs, Agenda Setting and Political Participation. Public Choice 134:109-123.
So politicians and mainstream media must pay attention to blogs. They should also pay attention to political science including political science blogs like this one. We could have saved the 99 Percent PAC trouble and money if they had read Hold that (robo) call in which I explained the research that shows that robocalls are utterly useless (except to the company that gets to charge for them). According to Ebbert’s story the Gabriel Gomez campaign is also paying for robocalls. Save your money.
My super smart UMass Boston undergraduate student Jason Agress and I conducted a study of BMG and Redmassgroup activities during the 2012 election season and we’ll be presenting a paper discussing some of our findings at the annual meeting of the New England Political Science Association next weekend in Portland. We’ll post some of our findings as time goes on here at MPP.