As MSNBC and Fox News watchers can attest, there’s a partisan divide when it comes to news.
Political polarization is playing out on more than just the cable airwaves. Various news sources are being split along alternating shades of red and blue, according to a new survey by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Democrats are more likely to get their news from broadcast networks such as CBS or NBC than Republicans and independents, while the GOP faithful are more reliant on cable news channels such as Fox and CNN than viewers of other political stripes.
Some 81 percent of Democrats said they check in with broadcast news sources, as opposed to 68 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents. Seventy percent of Republicans revealed they relied on 24-hour TV news channels, as opposed to 60 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents.
“These differences are truly partisan differences,” said Jennifer Benz, one of the survey’s co-authors and senior research scientist at the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. “They exist even when we control for income, age, education and all other demographic features that determine partisanship. Party affiliation matters when it comes to what sources people look to and and trust.”
She noted that researchers relied on broad brackets when it came to news sources, focusing on the means of transmission rather than specific news brands such as MSNBC or Fox News that wear their partisan affiliation proudly.
To come up with its numbers, researchers surveyed 1,492 adults across the country over a period of roughly six weeks. Respondents were contacted on a mix of landlines and cellphones.
Newspapers and magazines should send engraved thank you notes to the party of Kennedy and FDR. Nearly 70 percent of Democrats say they are more likely to discover news through print newspapers or magazines, as opposed to 59 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of independents. That preference translates into dollars. Democrats are also more likely to pay for news subscriptions, with 33 percent saying they will shell out of papers or magazines compared with 23 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of independents.
A lurch leftward might not be enough to save beleaguered print publications.
“It is a statistically significant difference, but overall its a general pattern across party lines that very few people are paying for media,” Benz said.
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Beyond social and economic issues, there are real difference between Democrats and Republicans over which news sources deserve their trust. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they trust the information from broadcast news networks, 57 percent versus 35 percent, respectively. Digital news sites also enjoy greater credibility with Democrats, with 52 percent saying they recently used them as a reporting source, compared with 42 percent of Republicans.
However, Republicans were more likely to believe cable news sources, with nearly 50 percent deeming them trustworthy compared to just over 40 percent of Democrats.
Democrats tend to spend more time digging into feature stories than people of other ideological backgrounds, the study found. Forty seven percent reported reading more than just the headlines of a longer feature, compared with 39 percent of independents and 30 percent of Republicans. There’s no partisan difference when it comes to consumption of breaking news articles, the study reported.
Beyond partisanship, its clear that Americans are becoming more omnivorous when it comes to following the news. More than six in ten American adults each week get news from television, radio, print, computers or smartphones and the average adult uses four types of media every week.
“Social media and mobile devices are adding to news consumption, but they’re not replacing traditional sources of media,” Benz said.
Though the internet has disrupted news-gathering and the economic underpinnings of the media business, its still being viewed with a jaundiced eye by consumers. Social media is one of the least-trusted ways of finding out about events, with 37 percent of those who got news this way in the last week distrusting or trusting only slightly social media. Online sources such as Yahoo! News, BuzzFeed, or The Huffington Post, and blogs also suffer from lower levels of trust. One in four users of these news sources say they trust them completely or very much, while one in five users say they trust them only slightly or not at all.
They may not believe what they read, but they are turning to digital platforms with greater regularity. Nearly half of Americans report using online platforms such as Yahoo! News, BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post, or other blogs in the last week, while thirty-seven percent report using magazines — print or online — as a source of news in the last week.