Pity poor David Bauder; writing for Business Week, he was given the task of trying to make the following into a “news” story.
“Survey Shows Media Differences Due to Politics” is the title of Bauder’s shocking expose, which begins:
Conservatives and liberals not only have different political views, they diverge sharply on what news sources they rely upon and trust, a survey has found.
Wow, and double wow! Who would have guessed? Please tell us more!
Liberals favor CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio and The New York Times, but none of those sources more dramatically than another. Conservatives have an overwhelming favorite: Fox News Channel, according to a study of media habits released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.
It’s almost as if people live inside of self-constructed news and opinion bubbles of some kind:
Conservatives are more likely to distrust news sources that don't reflect their point of view, the study said.
Color me blind-sided by that one! But let's remember that both sides do it:
Conservatives tend to have more friends who share their political views, and are more likely to read material on Facebook that reinforces their opinions. Liberals are more likely to "defriend" someone on Facebook or end a real friendship because of political differences, Pew said.
All of this came as something of a revelation to the folks at Pew Research, who apparently never would have guessed that Americans have been aggressively self-sorting according to politics and media for the past thirty years:
"One of the things that was striking was the degree of the differences and the consistency across all the different information environments," said Amy Mitchell, Pew's director of journalism research. Asked about their main source for news on government and politics, 47 percent of the respondents who were judged most conservative cited Fox News. No other organization was close: 11 percent of this group chose local radio.
A majority of conservatives said they distrusted fully two-thirds of the news sources they were asked about. Besides Fox, the only organizations the conservatives trusted were the Wall Street Journal, The Blaze, Breitbart, the Drudge Report and radio shows hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. Four others were equally trusted or distrusted.
I have to admit that it wouldn't have occurred to me to use the word "trusted" in the same sentence with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck. As for Breitbart--really?
Liberals said they trusted 28 of the 36 sources cited. CNN was named as the main political source for 15 percent of the liberals, followed by 13 percent for NPR, 12 percent for MSNBC and 10 percent for The New York Times.
CNN? Trusted? I wasn’t aware anyone even watched CNN anymore, much less trusted it. And why isn’t Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show listed among liberals’ trustworthy news sources? I think the Pew Survey may have missed the boat on this one.
The Wall Street Journal was the only organization trusted by majorities of both strong liberal and conservatives, with Buzzfeed the only organization distrusted by both groups, Pew said.
Despite the differences, Mitchell said the survey found that "it's really impossible to live in a true silo." Dissenting opinions seep through online, in conversations or media consumption.
This seeping through of dissenting opinions has to stop and it has to stop right now. I wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of moving into a news silo if I was still going to be plagued with other points of view. Shouldn’t all of our electronic media come with the political equivalent of “parental controls,” enabling our devices to preemptively screen out annoyingly heterodox opinions?
Thank you, Pew Research, for this highly informative, nay, illuminating survey. And kudos to David Bauder at Business Week for writing about it with a straight face, which is obviously more than I can bring myself to do.