Epistemic closure

A year ago, Public Policy Polling ran its annual “TV News Trust Poll.” There were plenty of interesting tidbits, but there was one line from the pollster’s analysis that stood out: “Democrats trust everything but Fox. Republicans don’t trust anything but Fox.”

A year later, PPP is back with new results, which point in a very similar direction. Kevin Drum put together this great visual, which I’m blatantly stealing borrowing, showing self-identified Republicans’ attitudes towards all of the major broadcast news organizations. GOP voters trust one outlet — and only one outlet.

And as was the case last year, Dems and independents trust every major news organization, by varying degrees, except Fox News.

Kevin added that while everyone is subject to confirmation bias, the right and left are simply processing current events in different ways: “Liberals don’t immediately dismiss as a conspiracy everything they hear from the news media that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions. They might downplay unwelcome news or even ignore it, but they’re still willing to listen to it. Increasingly, conservatives simply aren’t. They want to believe the world is a certain way, and they’re just flatly not willing to countenance anything that might challenge those beliefs. This is not a healthy development for a modern democracy.”

I couldn’t agree more. This isn’t just about pointing and laughing at the absurdities of Republican news consumers relying exclusively on a Republican outlet. There’s overwhelming evidence that these same Republican news consumers are dramatically confused, about a wide variety of important issues, most of the time. It’s not just because they rely on a deceptive propaganda outlet for information — it’s also because they don’t trust other outlets that might give them more reliable information.

The result is a large chunk of the American electorate that lives in an alternate political universe. It’s just not healthy.