Americans' scary media habits: New study surveys our polarized news landscape

The Pew Research Center looks at where we get our news -- and makes some dismaying discoveries

Published October 21, 2014 3:07PM (EDT)

Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee, Bill O'Reilly               (Fox News)
Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee, Bill O'Reilly (Fox News)

A new study confirms that when it comes to news media consumption, conservatives are from Mars, and liberals are from Venus.

The Pew Research Center's Political Polarization and Media Habits survey confirms many widely held assumptions about ideology and media consumption. Among "consistent liberals," for instance, the most trusted news sources are NPR, PBS, and the BBC. Meanwhile, among "consistent conservatives," Fox News is far and away the most trusted source, along with the network's Sean Hannity and right-wing shock jock Rush Limbaugh.

Particularly striking, though, are the sharp differences between liberals and conservatives in how they gather news. Consistent liberals draw from a broader array of sources, Pew finds. Fifteen percent say that CNN is their primary source of government and political news, followed by NPR (13 percent), MSNBC (12 percent), the New York Times (10 percent) and local TV (5 percent). But by a whopping 36 point margin, conservatives name Fox as their main source. Forty seven percent picked Roger Ailes' conservative propaganda apparatus, which was followed by local radio (11 percent), local TV (5 percent), local newspapers (3 percent), and the aggregator Google News (3 percent).

Of 36 sources that Pew quizzed respondents about -- ranging from the three major cable networks to news-and-commentary sites like The Blaze and ThinkProgress -- the typical consistent liberal had heard of more outlets (about 26) than the typical conservative had (about 24), and consistent liberals also placed more trust in media outlets than consistent conservatives did.

Overall, Fox News is the most polarizing news source identified in Pew's survey. Forty four percent of respondents said that they trust the network, while 37 percent said they distrust it. The only source that met with more distrust was the Rush Limbaugh show, which 39 percent of respondents indicated they distrust and only 12 percent said they trust. Despite such high levels of distrust, it's notable that 10 percent more respondents trusted Fox News more overall than the New York Times (34 percent), while three times more respondents trusted Fox than the New Yorker (14 percent).

While the study revealed a polarized media landscape, it did find that social media tends to expose people to a broader variety of news and information.



By Luke Brinker

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