Matthew Sheffield is right that the very conservative tend to live in a media bubble, but he also shows that the reverse is also true. People who don’t consume explicitly conservative media – which is to say most people – are living in a liberal media bubble that looks like the world.
This showed up in the public reaction to the first debate. Our Forfare Davis looked at the twitter reaction to the first debate between Romney and Obama and sees the power of social media. I see the reaction on twitter demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of the liberal bubble.
Many of the younger people who use twitter get their political information from conventional news sources or (more likely) entertainment media and peer-to-peer social media shares. They expected Romney to show up as lobotomized love child of Richie Rich and David Duke. They had always seen Romney (or any Republican who had risen to prominence) filtered through a hostile lens.
It was a shock to see Romney as a calm, very intelligent guy, with plausible reasons for all of his beliefs. It was also unpleasant. They were honest enough to admit that Romney was winning but, the sound of Romney making sense was causing a painful buzzing sound in their heads. Why wasn’t Obama shutting Romney down with a great line (especially one that could reassure the anxious listener that Romney was actually wrong)? Why were the people running the debate letting Romney get away with this?
But the first debate also showed that persuasion is a process rather than an event. Romney gained about four points in the Real Clear Politics polling average, but the mass of people who recognized that Romney won were not going to change their minds – even if they couldn’t explain why Romney was wrong.
They already associated Romney with everything bad. Those associations couldn’t be changed by one debate. That stuff is for the movies. The right could have created a set of negative associations for liberal Democrats (on late-term abortion for example) but conservative donors chose to give Karl Rove $300 million dollars so he could make worthless ads about old, rich, white people complaining about Obama regulations.
The strength of the liberal media bubble, the naiveté of conservative donors, and the laziness of Republican media consultants don’t exhaust the reasons for Romney’s defeat. Romney also needed an agenda better suited to the concerns of wage-earners, but a different candidate can choose to adopt a better agenda. The structural problem of the liberal media bubble will remain – as will the expensive incompetence of the right-leaning institutions who try to talk to that majority of Americans within that bubble.