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Are Conservatives More Partisan Internet Users? Not Really.

A new Pew Research Center study is being heralded in today’s New York Times as proof that conservatives are more close-minded than liberals. The piece, headlined “The Partisan Corners of the News,” relates the content of a Pew Internet report which finds that more Americans are getting their news about politics on the Internet than from newspapers.

Online news tends to be more partisan than traditional newspapers, the study finds. It then goes on to say that 44 percent of Republicans get their news from Internet sites that share their point of view while only 37 percent of Democrats do so.

Taken at face value, perhaps this can be interpreted as meaning that Republicans are more narrow-minded than Democrats since more of them eschew media with which they disagree. But the fallacy at the heart of that conclusion is the belief that traditional newspapers adhere to a standard of objectivity that openly opinionated Internet news sites do not.

But the reason for the growth of conservative websites, like the growth of conservative talk radio, is that the traditional media like the New York Times are so often heavily skewed to the left on their news pages as well as the sections labeled opinion. Democrats and liberals don’t have to go to The Daily Kos to read stories that conform to their view of the world. They can go to the Times for their biased news and opinion and still congratulate themselves that they are more open-minded than their conservative neighbors.

Interestingly, the same survey shows, to no one’s surprise, that when it comes to television news, Fox News viewers are far more likely to be Republicans while CNN has more Democrats watching. This may confirm liberal prejudices about Fox but the bad news for them is that the study also notes that Fox was the only outlet to increase its share of viewership from 2006 to 2010.


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