News Partisans

Conservatives, Liberals and the News

A new Pew Research study exploring US political polarization neatly captures what’s long been known: political partisans occupy filter bubbles with their own distinct set of news sources.

Some takeaways. “Consistent” conservatives:

  • Are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other group in the survey, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics.
  • Express greater distrust than trust of 24 of the 36 news sources measured in the survey. At the same time, fully 88% of consistent conservatives trust Fox News.
  • Are, when on Facebook, more likely than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views.
  • Are more likely to have friends who share their own political views. Two-thirds (66%) say most of their close friends share their views on government and politics.

On the other side of the spectrum, “consistent” liberals:

  • Are less unified in their media loyalty; they rely on a greater range of news outlets, including some – like NPR and the New York Times– that others use far less.
  • Express more trust than distrust of 28 of the 36 news outlets in the survey. NPR, PBS and the BBC are the most trusted news sources for consistent liberals.
  • Are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or “defriend” someone on a social network – as well as to end a personal friendship – because of politics.
  • Are more likely to follow issue-based groups, rather than political parties or candidates, in their Facebook feeds.

Is there any common ground? Just a bit. Both consistent conservatives and consistent liberals follow governmental and political news more closely than other groups.

Pew identifies five ideological groups in the study: consistent liberals, mostly liberals, mixed, mostly conservatives and consistent conservatives. While those in the ideological middle expose themselves to the widest variety of information sources, they do not focus on politics as often as partisan news consumers which Pew reports is about 20% of the country.

Pew Research, Political Polarization & Media Habits.

Image: Primary news sources for liberals and conservatives, via Pew (PDF)


From Future Journalism Project Producers and Editors.