Liberal blogger Cory Liebmann is trying to read the comments of conservative blogs to see if there is a trend of hostility towards Mark Neumann's candidacy for governor.
As I have continued to write and speculate about the prospects of a primary I have noticed a very clear theme. Walker supporters are joining in on the "in your face" activity against Neumann. In fact they are also taking shots at his biggest supporter, one-time GOP big-wig Jim Klauser. I was a little surprised at some of the right wing comments on my blog postings. I didn't realize that the Walker supporters were going to be so insulting and dismissive of their fellow Republican. Recently I wondered if this was just an anomaly on my blog, so I started looking around. After looking at the comments sections on a few news sites and a couple of popular right wing blogs, I found that there really is a rather nasty reaction to Mark Neumann from Walker supporters.
Liebmann then lists a few examples.
I think reading comments for trends is about as accurate as phrenology. All you can tell from the tone and number of comments is the tone and interest level of those commenters.
I think you can learn useful information from commenters. For example, if commenters keep repeating the same points over and over again that might be the sign of a trend or just a really good message-making operation.
My caution to Walker supporters is that you don't want to be as obnoxious as some Mark Green suppporters were during the last primary cycle. I believe your candidate certainly has a strong base of support right now (including the Lovely Doreen from Waukesha). However, you're going to need every conservative voter to win against Doyle.
As far as the usefulness of blog comments in general, I certainly do think they're important. Commenters provide instant feedback, useful information, entertaining remarks, additional arguments, and even a place for those who feel unfairly treated in a blog post to respond. For that reason I try to keep the comments as wide-open as possible. But I don't think you can see the bigger picture just from the comments, any more than yu can learn about someone by counting the bumps on their head.