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The Geezer Effect and Internet Politics

This isn’t really apropos of anything in particular, but over the weekend I was thinking about the fact that a lot of our perceptions about the medium-term implications of digital technology are probably skewed by the fact that, at the moment, there’s a significant generational gap in online activity:

For example, there’s also a significant generational gap in attitudes toward Barack Obama:

This means that at the moment there’s a substantial relationship between being online and attitudes toward Barack Obama. The online population, in other words, is a lot more Obamaphilic than the population as a whole.

This sort of thing has spurred a lot of admiring commentary about the efficacy of progressive internet tools, and some conservative interest in building conservative new media platforms leading to the present-day’s right-wing obsession with Twitter. But it seems very plausible that Obama’s popularity on the internet is driven by completely coincidental demographic factors — the senior citizen cohort contains more white people than does the generation population and white seniors have more conservative attitudes about a number of social issues than do white non-seniors — and the “success” of the online left is thus something of an illusion.

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