Political Polarization–How The Left and Right Follow Different Sources For News

The Pew Research Center has released a study on Political Polarization and Media Habits. Most of their findings, summarized below, are as would be predicted:

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.

It certainly comes as no surprise that conservatives are likely to follow Fox, which essentially means they are receiving the talking points of the Republican Party, with little regard for facts. While only 47 percent specifically cite Fox, I often find that conservatives are reciting the exact same talking points even if they deny watching Fox. Most likely they are following other conservative media which repeats the exact same message.

It also is no surprise that liberals are more interested in finding objective information and turn to a variety of sources such as NPR and The New York Times. Conservatives distrust media which doesn’t echo their viewpoints (even though, as Stephen Colbert has explained, “reality has a well-known liberal bias”). It is also not surprising that, while conservatives follow outlets with more overt political propaganda, liberals do not show as high an interest in MSNBC, and paid even less attention to Air America before it went out of business. This is not to say they are a mirror of Fox. MSNBC is far more factual when presenting liberal views. The point is that liberals are much more likley to seek an objective news source as opposed to listening to opinion.

When media outlets are examined by the ideology of viewers and readers, MSNBC’s audience is barely more liberal than the audience for CNN and the broadcast networks. Conservative outlets such as Politico and The Economist have a more liberal following than MSNBC. This might be because, while we generally think of MSNBC’s liberal evening shows, the network carries more objective news during the day. In the morning it runs a show hosted by conservative Joe Scarborough and, until he moved to Meet The Press, Scarborough was followed by another conservative, Chuck Todd. MSNBC’s overall audience is presumably different from their evening audience.

Buzzfeed is the least trusted source, but I suspect that this is because of not being well-known, or perhaps not being taken as seriously, as opposed to an ideological divide. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck follow as the least trusted, and Ed Schultz’s show is the least trusted liberal program.

As the Republican Party is now an ideological conservative party, it is also expected that conservatives are more likely than liberals to follow a political party. The authoritarian mind set which is common on the right might also make them more likely to follow a party, although conservatives have never been shy about complaining when they think the GOP is not conservative enough. Lacking a consistent liberal party in this country, it is expected that liberals are more likely to follow issues as opposed to the Democratic Party.

Initially I was surprised to see that liberals are more likely to defriend based upon ideology, but it makes sense as I think about my own experiences. I have some conservative Facebook friends who I have no reason to consider defriending, but have defriended other conservatives (along with some on the left). While I have certainly run into some on the left who are every bit as obnoxious as those on the right, ideologues on the right are often more likely to attempt to spread their views with a religious fervor. Arguments coming from the right are less likely to rely on facts or logical arguments, and much more likely to resort to insults.

This difference extends to the real world. While I have never ended a true friendship over politics, there are neighbors who I could never be friends with due to politics. I certainly have no use personally for those neighbors who have told my wife that she would go to Hell for having a Kerry sign in our front yard, or who have harassed my daughter in parking lots due to the Darwin Fish sticker on her car. While the experience of others might differ, I don’t see this type of fanaticism from liberals.

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Quote of the Day: Jimmy Fallon On Mark Zuckerberg Complaining About NSA Surveillance

“Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apparently called President Obama directly to complain about NSA and how it spies on ordinary Americans. That’s right, the guy who runs Facebook got mad at the NSA for spying on people. Talk about the pot unfriending the kettle!” –Jimmy Fallon

“Zuckerberg criticized the NSA and called the government a threat to the Internet. Then he went back to running a website where you list everyone you’ve ever met, every place you’ve been, every place you’re going, what you had eat, your ex-girlfriends and your ex-boyfriends, which bands you like…” –Jimmy Fallon

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Liberals Like Cats And Messy Desks

cats

Tests to tell if someone is liberal or conservative are of uncertain significance but often amusing enough to take a look at. From a survey, Time has found, among other things, that liberals are more likely to like cats than conservatives.

Cats are less likely to follow authority. It does make sense that liberals would have a greater affinity for these freedom-loving animals, while conservatives, who are more into authority and imposing their rules upon others (regardless of their rhetoric) might not like them as much. Other questions show a similar distinction with liberals being more supportive of liberty while conservatives being more interested in authority. For example, conservative authoritarianism leads to a preference for more neat and tidy desks.

If we were to follow the logic that liberals prefer cats more than conservatives due to their preference for liberty, then we might think that libertarians would be ever bigger lovers of this anarchic animal. It turns out that libertarians fall between liberals and conservatives on each question. With a little thought about the state of the libertarian movement, this actually makes sense. Libertarians include those who are true opponents of restrictions on liberty, but many other libertarians are basically conservatives who have smoked marijuana. They have hung out with Republicans for so long that it has become difficult to tell them apart. Some libertarians, such as Ron Paul, share many views with the religious right. Plus, as I have noted in the past, Ron Paul’s views would lead to a less free society. Anyone know his opinion of cats? In researching the question I did find a Cats and Kitties for Dr. Ron Paul Facebook Page, but that doesn’t tell me if the attraction is mutual. I wonder what additional information I can find over at FriendFace.

Of course this data is open to other interpretations. Allahpundit at Hot Air wonders if the survey shows that liberals like cats more than conservatives  because women tend to like cats and more women are liberals than conservatives. It is also possible that cats work better as pets among liberals who are more likely to live in urban areas. Similarly,  the tendency for conservatives to be older than liberals might explain why they are more likely to use Internet Explorer, but it appears that Allahpundit might be as quick to write someone out of the conservative movement for using IE as for supporting a tax increase.

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Extra, Extra, Read All About It: Montana Lt. Governor Likes Breasts

Breasts

Some stories are just so silly that it is hard to resist repeating them for the sake of amusement. The big political “scandal” today is that the possible Republican opponent to Democratic Lt. Gov. John Walsh, who might become a candidate for the Senate, got a screen grab showing that Walsh liked this Facebook page: Breasts. Proof men can multitask2. Walsh claims that clicking “like” was a mistake and the “like” was removed.

This sure seems tame compared to the sex scandals which recent candidates such as Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer got involved in (especially considering Facebook’s prohibition against the display of bare breasts). Besides, considering the amount of homophobia in the Republican Party, not to mention the overall popularity of breasts, I wonder if it was really necessary for John Walsh to distance himself from breasts.

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Vatican Offers Early Release From Purgatory For Following Pope Francis On Twitter

The religious version of the Get Out Of Jail Free card is indulgences to reduce one’s time spent in purgatory. In the middle ages some from the church would sell this for large sums of money. The Vatican is now trying to be more modern:

In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis’ tweets.

The church’s granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins.

The Vatican isn’t stopping with Twitter. They plan to use other social media such as having a Facebook page and using Pinterest. How much time off from purgatory does one get for being Pope Francis’ Facebook friend? Are their rewards for posting pictures of the Pope on Pinterest?

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Michigan Republican National Committeeman Spreads Anti-Gay Bigotry

Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema has obtained a lot of attention recently, even alienating some Republicans, with his extreme views on homosexuality. He is comparing gays to alcoholics when talking about getting them to give up their lifestyle. MLive reports:

“What I’d like to have the homosexual community know is I don’t hate them,” he said. “As a matter of fact when Jesus caught a woman in the act of adultery when they brought her to him he said I don’t condemn you but go and sin no more. That ought to be the church’s goal here. We ought to be saying to these people, ‘Hey, we don’t agree with your lifestyle and we’ll help you get out of it, but we want you to know the facts of what’s going to happen to you if you stay in this lifestyle.'”

The former state representative from West Michigan entered the national debate on gay marriage two weeks ago by sharing an article on Facebook titled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuality,” which began with a warning to parents that their children could be “indoctrinated” at public schools.

Agema repeated that claim on Wednesday, saying that school kids are already being conditioned to accept homosexuality and that “the next thing that will occur is your kids will come home and say, ‘I think this is a good thing and I think I want to be one.'”

The article also described various health problems associated with “the lifestyle,” citing various sources from 1978 to 1994, including a non-practicing chiropractor with ties to white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups. Agema has since updated the “traditional marriage” section of his personal website with links to additional sources, including the Family Research Council.

“If you really love someone, if you really were concerned about someone, if you saw your friend for example dying of alcoholism would you just stand quietly by and watch it happen?” Agema said on the radio program. “Or would you speak up and say hey I want to help you. That’s what we should be doing.”

As noted above, he recently shared an article with his Facebook friends expressing anti-gay bigotry:

Agema, of Grandville, sparked a furor Wednesday after he posted to an article titled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuals” on his Facebook page.

The article, written by a “Frank Joseph, M.D.,” purports homosexuals are promiscuous, riddled with sexually transmitted diseases and by and large are substance abusers.

It also alleges gay people are responsible for the spread of the AIDS virus in America, that “many homosexuals admit they are pedophiles” and that they are 100 times more likely to be murdered than “the average person.”

The outrage against this post also included protests by some Republicans. While they do not go along with Agema’s extreme statements, I wonder how many of these Republicans would be willing to support legal change to reverse laws which discriminate against homosexuals.

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Conservative Opposition To Keeping Government Out Of Our Private Lives

Bert and Ernie Equality

Having arguments brought before the Supreme Court on same sex marriage has highlighted the division in this country over social issues. While liberals respect the rights of individuals to live their lives as they choose, social conservatives demonstrate the fiction of conservative support for small government or individual liberty. It is conservatives who support the use of big government to impose their views upon others.

Differing from conservative views, the posts showing up on my Facebook page are covered with graphics supporting marriage equality, with many people changing their profile pictures to ones such as above and below:

Peanuts Equality

 

There is no rational argument to support using the government to impose one’s religious views upon others. The Founding Fathers certainly frowned upon this when they developed a secular government with separation of church and state. The modern conservative movement, which is both morally bankrupt and out of touch with reality, sees things differently. Here’s the dumb conservative question of the day from  The Brody File: Are Evangelicals Now More Scorned than Homosexuals? Of course Evangelicals who seek to impose their religious views upon others should be scorned. Why does the religious right believe there is a reason that homosexuals should be scorned.

Liberal Family Values

With growing majorities supporting marriage equality, there is even speculation that the Republican Party will give up on this issue. Others will continue to fight modern times and reality. Mike Huckabee responded to the prospect of Republicans supporting same sex marriage: “if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk.” Of course this would hasten the demise of the Republicans as a national political party.

Some conservatives are supporting continued discrimination based upon biblical reasons, which have no place in our system of government. I’ve even seen some claim that it is their freedom of religion which is being infringed upon. To the religious right, freedom of religion means the “freedom” to impose their religious views upon others.

Drastically Wrong

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Google To Discontinue Google Reader

Google announced today that they will be shutting down Google Reader as of July 1, 2013. I am sad to see it go both for the convenience and blog traffic.

With social media and magazine-style aggregators taking over the web, RSS readers have fallen in use. For those of us who want to regularly scan a large number of web sites, RSS readers are more complete than the random suggestions from Facebook friends and from tweets. Of course these are not mutually exclusive. A good old fashioned RSS feed will not have the pretty graphics of programs such as Flipbook, but they  allow for getting at much more actual text information. Google Reader also allows me to read a feed on any computer (including phone or tablet) and keep what I have or have not read synchronized.

Starring items of interest makes for an easy way to go back to web sites if I don’t have time to read when going through the RSS feed when the article or blog post isn’t important enough to save to Pocket, Instapaper, or Evernote, but I do want to look at it later. It is also how I keep track of material I intend to reference in upcoming blog posts.  Between now and July I will also have to go through the items I have starred, assuming they will always be available in Google Reader, and save those which are still worth saving.

RSS readers have also been important for bloggers. Back when they were more commonly used, this blog had over 8000 subscribers through RSS feeds. Now this has fallen to around 800. Over the years there have been abrupt drops as each major online RSS reading site was discontinued. There were probably also less obvious declines as people stopped using their computer-based RSS readers. Of course some of the loss has been made up from social media which provides a large audience for the posts. My followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are comparable in number to the old RSS reader subscribers. I do bet that a far lower percentage of Facebook friends read a copy of a blog post than subscribers in RSS feeds did. (Another effect of social media has been to replace blog comments with discussion of posts on social media).

Hopefully there will be enough outrage at Google shutting down Google Reader that they will reconsider now that they are the only major on line RSS reader left. There is a petition to Google to keep it alive. After enjoying the convenience of on-line synchronization, I could not go back to the desktop-based readers I used in the past. While far fewer people are using RSS readers, I do think there are enough of us left to support at least one site. Digg and other sites are looking into providing an alternative. I hope at least one of them resists the temptation to be too fancy and just copies Google Reader with minimal enhancements.

 

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Sarah Palin Leaving Fox

Know-nothing conservative politicians have little to fear from getting voted out of office. There are plenty of jobs for them at places such as Fox. Sarah Palin even quit her job as governor to make more money displaying her ignorance to even more ignorant conservatives. It looks like even a job at Fox isn’t guaranteed to be forever with Palin not accepting a renewal of a contract with Fox:

After a three-year run as a paid contributor to the nation’s highest-rated cable news channel, Sarah Palin and FOX News have cut ties, according to a source close to the former Alaska governor.

“It’s my understanding that Gov. Palin was offered a contract by FOX, and she decided not to renew the arrangement,” the source close to Palin told RCP. “She remains focused on broadening her message of common-sense conservatism across the country and will be expanding her voice in the national discussion.”

The source declined to say whether Palin would pursue a television contract with another news network, such as CNN.

It is hard to see Palin at CNN or MSNBC.  She might find  a spot on talk radio, and I’m sure she will still make a good living giving talks to conservative groups.

There is speculation, considering how rocky things have been between Palin and Fox, that Palin was not offered a new contract which she was happy with. Doug Mataconis summarized the relationship:

This isn’t entirely surprising. There have been signs for quite some time that FNC, or to be more specific Roger Ailes, was souring on Palin. Her appearances on the network have become increasingly rare, which was odd considering the fact that the network went through the effort and expense of constructing a remote studio in her home thousands of miles away form the network’s home office. Additionally, there were reports way back in 2011 that  Ailes was not entirely pleased with Palin both because of the fact that she chose to announce her Presidential intentions on a talk radio show and because of her reaction to the criticism she unfairly received after the Gabby Giffords shooting. Last year, the speculation about the status of her relationship was put into further doubt when she took to her Facebook page to complain about the fact that the network did not utilize her during the Republican National Convention. So, perhaps, this was a long time in coming.

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This Dog Rides Inside Of Cars

My wife’s goal, beyond seeing Barack Obama win another four years, was to get one of our dogs on the Pet Lovers For Obama Facebook Page. Mission accomplished today.

Fudge is definitely a Democrat. He pisses on Republican campaign signs. (Unfortunately one of our cats does support the guy who puts dogs on the top of cars.)

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