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Making Sense of Where We Get Our News

Oct 31, 2014

Credit npr.org

Would you be surprised to learn that liberals and conservatives don't get their news from the same sources?

That's one of the findings in a big Pew Research study called Political Polarization and Media Habits.

Before you say, "Well, duh," Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-Making Project says there are some things to be learned from this study.

"Sure, maybe we knew that liberals and conservatives were going to completely different sources of news. But we didn't know how they were doing it," McBride explained. "This study really fleshes that out."

For instance, Fox News may be the conservative choice for news, but there's no equivalent news outlet for those of a liberal bent.

"People who are consistently conservative turn to Fox News, but there is no correlation for the consistently liberal," said McBride. "In fact, the people who are consistently liberal turn to four different sources of news. They turn to NPR, The New York Times, MSNBC and CNN -- all in relatively similar amounts. So there isn't a giant counterweight to Fox News for the liberal consumer."

Fox News actually found what it said was proof of liberal intolerance in the Pew study. That's because the Pew study shows that liberals tend to block conservative messages that show up in their Facebook feeds.

"That's a very interesting take," McBride said. "What the study actually said was, 'yes, that part is true but conservatives are much more likely to hear opinions that are similar to their own on Facebook so they wouldn't have anybody to block.'"

There is some common ground when it comes to what sources people turn to for news, despite their political leanings.

"Everybody across the spectrum trusts The Wall Street Journal," said McBride. "Most people trust The Economist, they trust the BBC, they trust ABC News, they trust USA Today, they trust Google News. All of those sources are only distrusted by people who are consistently conservative."

And, while everybody seems to check out Buzzfeed from time to time on the internet, it's apparently not because they trust the website as a news source.

"Yeah, nobody trusts Buzzfeed,"McBride said.