Though it seems that Americans are constantly on the phones, studies show that most Americans still obtain news from television. At the start of 2020, the common American adult consumed around nine-and-a-half hours of television news weekly, in accordance with Nielsen.
Cable news channels like CNN, Fox, and MSNBC are widely understood to possess political leanings, but a fresh study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences surveyed ten years of cable news to measure that bias on a granular scaleby your day, the week, and also the hour. It discovered that all three networks became more polarized on the period studied, particularly following a 2016 election, becoming more out of sync, with Fox moving to the proper in reaction to events that caused MSNBC and CNN to go left.
“There’s been this assumption that media bias is rather fixed,” says Yphtach Lelkes, co-author on the analysis and a co-employee professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, “just ‘Fox News may be the right. And MSNBC may be the left.’ But what we see is that it moves, and pretty quickly.”
Lelkes and his colleagues centered on one type of media bias because of their study: visibility bias. For instance, if nearly all guests on a news channel are believed liberal, then your channel itself will be viewed as liberal. They analyzed hundreds of hours of CNN, Fox, and MSNBC to determine who appeared on screen during news shows on these channels for at the very least 10 hours total between January 2010 and August 2020.
Every one of these guests was assigned a media bias score predicated on their financial contributions to political candidates and organizations, as within Stanford University’s Database on Ideology, Profit Politics, and Elections (DIME).
“In case a person donates to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, they’re assigned a media bias score predicated on their financial contributions to political candidates and organizations considered more conservative,” Lelkes says. “And when they contribute to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they’re more liberal. When we identify people on screen, we are able to also identify their ideology.”
Using these scores as evidence, the team confirmed that in the past decade Fox has moved further to the proper while both CNN and MSNBC have moved further left. More specifically, they pinpointed once the ideological gap between your channels became extreme: following the 2016 Presidential election.
“For several years, Fox News was to the proper of MSNBC and CNN,” Lelkes says, “however they used to track one another. When Fox moved to the proper, so did MSNBC and CNN. Each of them flowed together. After Trump arrived to office, they taken care of immediately events in the news headlines by leaning from each other and much more strongly toward their respective ideologies.”
Interestingly, this gap between channels is more pronounced with regards to primetime programming. In comparison to other shows on the respective networks, primetime shows like “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN and “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC skew more sharply left, while “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox skews a lot more to the proper.
“We don’t really note that dramatic polarization for the morning and afternoon shows,” Lelkes says, “which tend to be more hard news, more fact-based shows.”
Another recent study in the journal Science Advances, authored by University of Pennsylvania Stevens University Professor Duncan Watts and colleagues, also studied the partisanship of TV news by concentrating on the audience partisanship. It discovered that Americans who obtain news from TV, instead of reading it online, are more more likely to watch channels that reflect their ideology, and so are less inclined to stray outside their partisan bubble.
Taken together, both studies paint a concerning picture that partisan audiences on cable news are growing as the outlets themselves are more extreme.
Lelkes’s findings have raised several additional questions for the researchers: Do good ratings on a specific show encourage a whole network to go to the proper or the left? Do viewer boycotts affect the ideology of a news channel? Will the ideological gap between channels ever get smaller or does it just keep growing?
For the present time, the team is focusing on checking its data to the general public.
“Soon we shall have a platform where people can play with the datawhere they are able to decrease to the show level and see what the bias scores are for just about any one show,” Lelkes says.
Along with Lelkes, “Measuring Dynamic Media Bias” is co-authored by Columbia University Assistant Professor of Political Science and Annenberg Alum Eunji Kim and University of Utah Assistant Professor of Political Science Josh McCrain.
More info: Eunji Kim et al, Measuring dynamic media bias, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2202197119
Citation: Study finds cable news networks have become more polarized (2022, August 1) retrieved 2 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-cable-news-networks-grown-polarized.html
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