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“Two nearly inverse news media environments”: An overwhelming majority of US adults live in separate media bubbles, Pew reports

There’s none so blind as those who will not see, the old saying goes. 

And when 3 out of 4 people simply refuse to consider a different point of view, is it any wonder that trust in media has gone south, and continues to plummet?

A new Pew Research Center report finds that in the United States, there are “two nearly inverse news media environments.” 

Not a single major news source is trusted by a majority of adults.

Republicans trust Fox News far more than any other news outlet, and Democrats, similarly,  place their trust in CNN. These, according to the report, are “the two cable channels that most clearly represent the polarized media universe.”

Is there any overlap among consumers?
The answer, in roughly 3 out of 4 cases, is No.

Pew found only a quarter of Republicans (24%) got political news from CNN, virtually matching the percentage of Democrats (23%) who say the same of Fox News. Nevertheless, Pew cautions, “getting news from a source does not always mean trusting that source.”

For example, among the 24% of Republicans who said they got political and election news from CNN, about four-in-ten (39%) say they distrust CNN. Conversely, among the 53% of Democrats who use CNN, just 4% distrust it.

Moreover, evidence suggests that partisan polarization in the use and trust of media sources has widened in the past five years. 

Pew Research Center

“More Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents trust than distrust most of the 30 outlets in the study, but the reverse is true among Republicans and GOP leaners,” says John Gramlich, a Senior Editor at Pew Research Center. 

“And while Democrats’ trust in many of these outlets has remained stable or in some cases increased since 2014, Republicans have become more alienated from some of them, widening an already substantial partisan gap.”

“Republicans have a more compact media ecosystem,” explains Amy Mitchell, Director of Journalism Research at Pew Research Center. “They rely to a large degree on a small number of outlets and view many established brands as not trustworthy. Democrats, on the other hand, rely on a wider number of outlets.”

The big difference, according to the report, is that while no other source comes close to rivaling Fox News’ appeal to Republicans, a number of sources other than CNN are also highly trusted and frequently used by Democrats.

The partisan gaps become even more dramatic, the report states, when looking at the parties’ ideological poles – conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. 

About two-thirds of liberal Democrats (66%) trust The New York Times, for example. In comparison, just 10% of conservative Republicans trust the Times, while 50% outright distrust it. Rush Limbaugh, meanwhile, is the third-most trusted source among conservative Republicans (38%) but tied for the second-most distrusted source among liberal Democrats (55%).

Amid this deep polarization, a few sources stand out across parties, Pew found. PBS, the BBC and the Wall Street Journal are the three outlets trusted more than distrusted by both Republicans and Democrats.

At the other end of the spectrum, three outlets are distrusted by more in each party than trusted: the Washington Examiner, the New York Post, and BuzzFeed.

Overall, the survey indicates that Republicans (and independents who lean Republican) get political and election news from a smaller group of sources than Democrats, with an overwhelming reliance on one source – Fox News. Democrats (including independents who lean Democratic), on the other hand, use a wider range of sources.

“And in what epitomizes this era of polarized news, none of the 30 sources is trusted by more than 50% of all U.S. adults,” the report notes.

The full report is available here.

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