April 30, 2012 4 Comments
Really interesting post by Jonathan Ladd at the Monkey Cage looking at how media consumption patterns vary by levels of trust in the news. First, though, he compares 2000 to 2010. Pretty amazing to see how much this has polarized in a decade. By 2010 partisan viewing habits had diverged quite dramatically from 2000:
He’s got another set of charts looking at viewership by trust level which he describes and then shares his conclusion:
Dividing people this way reveals that those who distrust the media are a good deal more likely to choose their news consumption in ways that confirm their predispositions. Moving from those who do not perceive a lot of media bias to those who do, Republicans go from being 9 percentage points more likely to watch network news to Democrats being 9 percentage points more likely to watch. The gap between Democrats and Republicans in their CNN viewership grows from 5 to 22 percentage points. The partisan gap in NPR listenership grows from 5 to 13 percentage points. The gap in PBS News Hour viewership grows from 7 to 13 percentage points. And the partisan gap in MSNBC viewership grows from 4 to 24 points. Among those who do not perceive a lot of bias, 56 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Democrats watch Fox at least sometimes, a 19 percentage point gap. But among those who perceive a lot of overall media bias, 75 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats watch Fox, a 42 point gap.
To summarize, people who distrust the institutional media learn about the political world differently. They are more likely to resist messages attributed to the institutional media that they encounter. But they also tend to be exposed to different messages than those who trust the media. They disproportionately choose media outlets that provide information reinforcing their partisan predispositions and are less likely to choose outlets they see as politically hostile. Together, these patterns contribute to partisan differences in perceptions of reality. [emphasis mine]
Of course, while no single source truly reflects objective reality I think there’s a fair amount of empirical evidence that NPR comes dramatically closer than Fox News and that Fox viewers are truly living in their separate– and sadly, all too often, false– reality.