Do conservatives overrate their popularity and, consequently, their power? Quite possibly, suggested Washington Post blogger-reporter Chris Cillizza in a Saturday post on the Washington Post's web site.
The peg for Cillizza's item was a recent Pew Research Center finding that five right-leaning online outlets, including The Washington Times, The Blaze, and Breitbart.com, were "among the most shared [news sites] on Facebook, but [not] among the most visited [news] sites" overall. Cillizza, wondering why these righty sites would generate so much Facebook traffic even though they had far fewer visitors than "more mainstream" sites, speculated:
What explains how those five conservative news sites are so actively shared on Facebook but come nowhere close to the raw traffic numbers of some more mainstream media sites?
Here's my theory. Conservatives are a remarkably well-organized and tight-knit group. It's why every book from a conservative author shoots to the top of the best-seller list. It's why Fox News Channel's primetime programming regularly doubles that of its cable competition. It's why Rush Limbaugh has no talk radio equal among liberals. It's not terribly surprising then that organizational closeness extends to the digital space where conservative use Facebook to share stories/links from a handful of conservative websites.
The fact that these sites rank as some of the most shared via Facebook but are not in the conversation when it comes to the most trafficked sites also speaks to a broader problem with the conservative movement. Yes, they are organized and effective. But, no, they are not legion. That's why conservative voices -- and candidates -- can dominate a primary election but occasionally nominate a candidate who lacks an appeal to the broader electorate.