Whose News You Can Use

A big new Pew Research Journalism Project survey of media consumption patterns has a lot of fascinating detail. But the finding we’ll hear most about confirms some of the most common stereotypes about what Pew calls “consistent” conservatives and liberals:

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.

So assessing the importance of Fox News involves more than just looking at ratings. Its extraordinary central role in “informing” the ideological “base” of one of the country’s two major political parties is unparalleled.

I’ve only begun to plumb the depths of this study, but there are some curiosities. An ideological profiling of the audiences of 36 news/views outlets (not including, alas, the Washington Monthly) shows that MSNBC’s audience is less liberal than that of two institutions frequently thought to be objectively conservative and/or pro-Republican: The Economist and Politico. And BuzzFeed has the dubious distinction of being more distrusted than trusted among every single ideological category. Pretty impressive for a relatively “young” site, eh?

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.