Political Polarization and Trust in Media Sources

The following chart is taken from a new report by the Pew Research Center, measuring public trust, by political ideology, in various media outlets.

Trust in News Sources

The takeaways from this survey are fairly obvious from the chart.

On the whole, UK-based news sources are trusted by a broader range of Americans than U.S. news sources.

Those who identify as consistently liberal, mostly liberal, and mixed in their political views trust a much broader spectrum of news outlets than those who identify as mostly conservative or consistently conservative.

Likewise, with the exception of The Blaze and FOX News, conservative news sources are more distrusted than trusted.

At one end of the spectrum, MSNBC’s The Ed Schultz Show is trusted by as narrow an audience as Al Jazeera, while, at the other end of the spectrum, Rush Limbaugh’s radio broadcast is trusted fewer listeners than even Glenn Beck’s and Sean Hannity’s broadcasts.

But, beyond those sorts of observations, I think that the conclusion that the results of this survey demonstrate our deepening political polarization ought to be challenged. In terms of the numbers of people involved, their visibility and intensity, and their impact, no groups on the Far Left are comparable to the extremists on the Far Right who have become a major political force within the GOP. If Liberals choose to reject that extremism completely, that choice does not necessarily make them equivalently extreme. Rather, it may simply mean that they have very little regard for unreasonable political positions. In other words, they may simply be reasonable, and what the survey is demonstrating is not polarization but, instead, extremism at one end of the political spectrum that no one else—on the left, in the center, or even leaning to the right–wishes to legitimize, never mind endorse or embrace.

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An overview of the study and its results is available at: http://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/about-the-study-2/?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Triggermail&nr_email_referer=1

The complete report is available at: http://www.journalism.org/files/2014/10/Political-Polarization-and-Media-Habits-FINAL-REPORT-10-21-2014.pdf

 

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