With growing political polarization on constant display with coverage of the impeachment, the 2020 election, and most recently the State of the Union, expert Megan Duncan, who has been examining the issue for years, points to a divergence of trust in media. The more engaged someone is with politics, the more polarized their worldview. This happens, because “Americans are hesitant to trust news sources that don’t fit their political ideology” said Duncan. 

“While liberals choose between several and trust nearly two dozen news brands, conservatives are coalescing their trust and viewership around a single brand. When groups of audiences are paying attention to different sources of news and actively distrusting what other news media say, populations have different views of reality, different perspectives about what issues need to be solved, and different priorities and values,” said Duncan. 

A recent Pew Research Center study also underscores this perspective and what her research has shown.

Quoting Duncan 

“Most U.S. residents still have a mixed media diet, but audiences are far more sorted in the news media they choose to pay attention to and trust than they were 15 years ago.”

“Often, people will complain about the ‘lazy audience’ who isn’t taking on the responsibility of making up its own mind about issues. But, audiences have never been particularly diligent about doing independent research and developing opinions absent others.”

About Duncan 

Megan Duncan is an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Communication. Her research focuses on news credibility, political news, digital news,  audience engagement, and data journalism. She recently published a paper on the similarities between sports fandom and political tribalism.

Expertise featured in Morning Consult

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Written by Sarah Newman.