Through the Grapevine: Socially Transmitted Information and Distorted Democracy (Chicago Studies in American Politics) (Hardcover)

Through the Grapevine: Socially Transmitted Information and Distorted Democracy (Chicago Studies in American Politics) By Taylor N. Carlson Cover Image
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An enlightening examination of what it means when Americans rely on family and friends to stay on top of politics.

Accurate information is at the heart of democratic functioning. For decades, researchers interested in how information is disseminated have focused on mass media, but the reality is that many Americans today do not learn about politics from direct engagement with the news. Rather, about one-third of Americans learn chiefly from information shared by their peers in conversation or on social media. How does this socially transmitted information differ from that communicated by traditional media? What are the consequences for political attitudes and behavior?

Drawing on evidence from experiments, surveys, and social media, Taylor N. Carlson finds that, as information flows first from the media then person to person, it becomes sparse, more biased, less accurate, and more mobilizing. The result is what Carlson calls distorted democracy. Although socially transmitted information does not necessarily render democracy dysfunctional, Through the Grapevine shows how it contributes to a public that is at once underinformed, polarized, and engaged.

About the Author

Taylor N. Carlson is associate professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis. Her previous books include Talking Politics and What Goes Without Saying.

Praise For…

"Many citizens learn about politics through conversations with their friends and family. Such engagement can come with a steep cost. In this terrific and meticulously researched book, Carlson argues that interpersonal conversations about politics may do more harm than good. As citizens discuss what they read or hear in media reports, the actual information transmitted through conversation degrades and becomes more partisan in character, more negative in tone, and less accurate in nature."
— Adam J. Berinsky | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Through the Grapevine is one of the most important books written on public opinion formation in some time. Carlson convincingly argues that as an engaged public discusses politics via word-of-mouth, they distort it, make it less accurate, and more polarizing. This turns decades of conventional wisdom about the role that informed news consumers play in a democracy on its head and sheds light on how most Americans form their political opinions.”
— Kevin Arceneaux | author of "Changing Minds or Changing Channels?"

Product Details
ISBN: 9780226834153
ISBN-10: 0226834158
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: July 6th, 2024
Pages: 232
Language: English
Series: Chicago Studies in American Politics