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Thoughts On Comment Threads: They`re More Significant Than Most Realize
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May 16, 2013, 04:45 PM
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John Derbyshire’s article on comment threads made interesting points. A few thoughts:

  • Like millions of conservatives, I get a lot of my news by reading Drudge Report. In such stories, almost all the commenters are likely coming from Drudge, so they are probably slanted conservative. I often will look for the same story on a different website just to compare. Similarly, when I come across a comment thread that has a lot of white activist comments, including the obligatory “antiracist is code word for anti-white” meme, I Google the title of the article and the word “Stormfront.” Usually, that infamous forum linked to the story.
  • I do get the impression that comment threads seem to measure intensity.  I remember in 2010 the vast majority of comments in all non-liberal publications were very anti-Obama. Though his approval ratings were low at the time, I felt that the anti-Obama sentiment was even stronger after reading those comments. In the run up the 2012 election, it seemed like there was much more anti-Romney comments than anti-Obama comments. This was just my impression: I did not do any analysis
  • But just because comment threads are not perfectly representative of readership or public opinion does not mean they are not significant. Almost all of Derbyshire’s qualifications can be made about phone  calls to Congress—but most observers credit such phone calls with stopping the 2006/2007 Amnesties.
  • Re Derbyshire’s impression about gun control being less unpopular than immigration: A friend works for a Congressman who is very outspoken against the former and solid, but relatively silent, on the latter. The friend tells me that the Congressman gets hounded by phone calls from outside his district critical of his opposition to gun control—but that virtually all the calls from his district are against amnesty.