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Divided and Conquered Part 3

by on August 5, 2014

Is the media causing a larger political divide?

The human race is in a new era of assimilating information because of the recent advent of cable news and the internet in the past 25 years.  Science has still yet to determine how this is effecting our divide but there is plenty of valuable tidbits that are correlative that could lead one to believe that media is playing a major role in creating a political divide.

The onset of cable news channels began when CNN first aired in 1980, but at that time cable wasn’t as prevalent as it is today, so it went without much in competition for nearly 16 years, until MSNBC and FOX News both aired in 1996.  At first intuition one would think that more competition is a great thing, to which I would agree.  But has this competition led to greater news coverage?  Or has it lead to more divisiveness in this country?

Since the inception of other cable news networks fostering this competition of opinions, there has been a steep incline in creating a political divide.  According to Pew Research (read through this whole thing, it’s amazing):

“The overall share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades from 10% to 21%. And ideological thinking is now much more closely aligned with partisanship than in the past. As a result, ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished: Today, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.”

The above survey was conducted over a 20 year period and dates back to 1994, so it is feasible to pin some of this divide on the sudden rise in cable news, and the opinions they state on their stations.  Of course this is highly susceptible to the fallacy of correlation implies causation, but it ought to make someone wonder why the specific divide started to occur then, and continues to worsen.

According to the same Pew research the views of opposing parties have also become more extreme.  In 1994 16% of democrats had an unfavorable view of republicans and today that number is up to 36%, and republicans had a 17% unfavorable view of democrats in 1994 and is now up to 43%.

Pew has also done great research on who watches cable news, and what they are watching.  At prime time, cable news will focus on talk shows to capture their audience.  Those that are heavy watchers of cable news, will be more prone to develop issues of group think as they are only listening to opinions on one side.

If you read the first link I posted from Pew, it goes on for several pages as to just how divided people are.  There are increasing percentages of people who are so ideologically cemented in their beliefs that they don’t want to live near people opposed to them, and often times won’t befriend them.  As shown on page 4 of that report it shows that consistent liberals have over a 70% unfavorable view of Fox news and over 70% of consistent conservatives have an unfavorable view of MSNBC.  So if our two main partisan cable news stations are fostering such a divide it makes it safe to ascertain that they are part of the blame for such a divide in our country.



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