New Study: Conservative Media Is An Echo Chamber That Increases Partisanship
Vox Highlights Study: “Republicans Rely On A Media That Is More Likely To Echo Their Partisan Biases, And Democrats Rely On Media That Does Not Pick A Side”
Vox's Dylan Matthews highlighted a study from two political science professors which found that Republicans “rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases” and create parallel media outlets, creating an echo chamber which “increase[s] partisanship and ideological commitment.”
Right-wing media has a noted effect on shaping its viewers perceptions.The conservative media echo chamber has been partly responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, by consistently providing a platform for his ideas and defending him when attacked. In addition, conservative media has created the environment where presidential candidates feel comfortable enough to claim that the media has a liberal bias and therefore shouldn't be trusted. This leads candidates to mold their candidacies towards what those who listen to conservative media want to hear and parrot popular conservative media hosts ideas and rhetoric.
In the April 1 article, the study highlighted by Matthews found these media echo chambers created by conservatives are having an impact. The study, conducted by two political science professors, argued that conservatives' “distrust of the mainstream media” caused them to “set up a parallel ecosystem to get their message out.” Therefore, “Republicans rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases, and Democrats rely on media that does not pick a side and at least claims to be objective and empirical (whether or not it lives up to that promise).” The study also found that this echo chamber effect “has huge implications for how Democrats and Republicans view politics”, “increas[ing] partisanship and ideological commitment”:
The numbers come from a new study from political scientists Matt Grossmann and Dave Hopkins collating five years of Public Policy Polling data on which major news networks people do and do not trust. PPP's data shows that Republicans are just as distrustful of mainstream outlets as of MSNBC, and Democrats are about as trusting:
Grossmann and Hopkins's broader argument is that Republicans' distrust of the mainstream media creates an asymmetry in how the parties approach the media. Democrats rely on the mainstream media both to get out their message and to cover events. Republicans generally distrust mainstream outlets and so have set up a parallel ecosystem to get their message out.
The result is Republicans rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases, and Democrats rely on media that does not pick a side and at least claims to be objective and empirical (whether or not it lives up to that promise). “Democrats therefore remain relatively unexposed to messages that encourage ideological self-identification or describe political conflict as reflecting the clash of two incompatible value systems,” Grossmann and Hopkins write. “Instead, the information environment in which they reside claims to prize objectivity, empiricism, and policy expertise.”
Grossmann and Hopkins confirm this, citing a bevy of evidence demonstrating that increased access to only one side's media increases partisanship and ideological commitment in news consumers. The University of Pennsylvania's Matthew Levendusky experimentally exposed study participants to Fox and MSNBC, and concluded that “partisan media make citizens more convinced that their views are the 'right' one ... make citizens less willing to trust the other party and less willing to support compromise with them, thereby contributing to persistent gridlock ... [and] influence vote choice, as well as how citizens come to understand elections.”
Grossmann and Hopkins's underlying explanation is that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are fundamentally structurally distinct. Republicans are “chiefly defined by a common ideological commitment,” while Democrats are a “coalition of social groups.”
So on the one side you have an ideologically rigorous party/movement that relies on its own newsgathering and information-producing services, leading to an increasingly distinct worldview from Democrats or independents.