On October 21, 2014 the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., issued a report entitled Political Polarization & Media Habits. From Fox News to Facebook, How Liberals and Conservatives Keep Up with Politics.
From the Overview of this report I quote:
When it comes to getting news about politics and government, liberals and conservatives inhabit different worlds. There is little overlap in the news sources they turn to and trust. And whether discussing politics online or with friends, they are more likely than others to interact with like-minded individuals, according to a new Pew Research Center study.
The project – part of a year-long effort to shed light on political polarization in America – looks at the ways people get information about government and politics in three different settings: the news media, social media and the way people talk about politics with friends and family. In all three areas, the study finds that those with the most consistent ideological views on the left and right have information streams that are distinct from those of individuals with more mixed political views – and very distinct from each other.
These cleavages can be overstated. The study also suggests that in America today, it is virtually impossible to live in an ideological bubble. Most Americans rely on an array of outlets – with varying audience profiles – for political news. And many consistent conservatives and liberals heard dissenting political views in their everyday lives.
Yet as our major report on political polarizationfound, those at both the left and right ends of the spectrum, who together comprise about 20% of the public overall, have a greater impact on the political process than do those with more mixed ideological views. They are the most likely to vote, donate to campaigns and participate directly in politics. The five ideological groups in this analysis (consistent liberals, mostly liberals, mixed, mostly conservatives and consistenconservatives) are based on responses to 10 questions about a range of political values. That those who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions have different ways of informing themselves about politics and government is not suprirsing. But the depth of these divisions - and the differences between those who have strong ideological views and those who do not - are striking.
Overall, the study finds that 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.
By contrast, those with consistently liberal views:
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.
Those with down-the-line conservative and liberal views do share some common ground; they are much more likely than others to closely follow government and political news. This carries over to their discussions of politics and government. Nearly four-in-ten consistent conservatives (39%) and 30% of consistent liberals tend to drive political discussions – that is, they talk about politics often, say others tend to turn to them for information rather than the reverse, and describe themselves as leaders rather than listeners in these kinds of conversations. Among those with mixed ideological views, just 12% play a similar role.
It is important to note, though, that those at either end of the ideological spectrum are not isolated from dissenting views about politics. Nearly half (47%) of across-the-board conservatives – and 59% of across-the-board liberals – say they at least sometimes disagree with one of their closest political discussion partners."