Media Polarization and the 2020 Election

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As the U.S. enters a heated 2020 presidential election year, a new Pew Research Center report finds that Republicans and Democrats place their trust in two nearly inverse news media environments.


Overall, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents view many heavily relied-on sources across a range of platforms as untrustworthy.

At the same time, Democrats and independents who lean Democratic see most of those sources as credible and rely on them to a far greater degree.

The findings, which could impact News/Talk radio stations and broadcast TV stations alike, come from a Pew Research Center American Trends Panel survey of 12,043 U.S. adults conducted from Oct. 29–Nov. 11, 2019.

In a detailed 67-page report, Pew research analysts Mark Jurkowitz, Amy Mitchell, Elisa Shearer, and Mason Walker uncovered “deep partisan divisions” between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to trust in the media.

These divides are even more pronounced
between conservative Republicans and liberal
Democrats.

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

It cites a comparison to a similar study by Pew of webusing U.S. adults in 2014 finds that Republicans have grown increasingly alienated from most of the more established sources, while Democrats’ confidence in them remains stable, and in some cases, has strengthened.

The study asked about use of, trust in, and distrust of 30 different news sources for political and election news.

Pew notes, “While it is impossible to represent the entire crowded media space, the outlets, which range from network television news to Rush Limbaugh to The New York Times to the [free newsrack-distributed] Washington Examiner to HuffPost, were selected to represent popular media brands across a range of platforms.”

What did Pew find? “Greater portions of Republicans express distrust than express trust of 20 of the 30 sources asked about.”

Sean Hannity
Sean Hannity

In fact, only seven outlets generate more trust than distrust among Republicans.

To little surprise, this includes Fox News and the talk radio programs of Limbaugh and fellow far-right talk host Sean Hannity.

For Democrats, the numbers are almost reversed.

“Greater portions of Democrats express trust than express distrust in 22 of the 30 sources asked about,” Pew finds. “Only eight generate more distrust than trust.”

This, again to little surprise, includes Fox News, Hannity and Limbaugh.

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.

Then, there is veteran syndicated radio talk host Limbaugh, who ranks as the third-most
trusted source among conservative Republicans (38%) but is tied for the second-most distrusted source among liberal Democrats (55%).

The gap is less pronounced among the more moderate segments in each party.

To download this report CLICK HERE.

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