The Political Divide: How Liberals and Conservatives Read the News – or Ignore it

February 28th, 2017 by Sonya

This week, we partnered with The New York Times – The Upshot on a study of supply and demand in the news. Essentially, we sought to uncover how many articles news organizations wrote about a given event compared to the demand for these articles among their readers, measured by Engaged Time.

In a time of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” there’s a perception that the media isn’t covering the issues fairly and may be only covering the issues that align with the publication’s political leaning. We wanted to find out if this was really what was happening.

Bowling Green Massacre Article Supply and Demand

We looked at 148 news publishers, divided into liberal and conservative buckets by The Upshot using scores from a study done at the University of Michigan, and studied article supply and reader demand of six recent news topics:

  1. Inauguration crowd size debate
  2. Alleged Bowling Green massacre
  3. Muslim travel ban
  4. Michael Flynn’s resignation
  5. Super Bowl LI
  6. The Grammy Awards

In the end, we found this perception of media bias is not completely true, as publishers on both sides are writing about each topic roughly equally. Instead, this perception may stem from the reader demand side of things; while supply of articles written on each topic was generally consistent across conservative and liberal news outlets, readers on each side do not read the same topics equally.

It’s not media coverage but actually consumer behavior trends that shape what gets read and what doesn’t.

The polarizing perceptions of reality are not only shaped by the content supplies from newsrooms but also by demands from their audiences because, after all, news consumers are the ultimate constructors of their own realities.

Head over to The New York Times’ The Upshot to check out the full study.

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