Most Americans don't get their news from an ideologically lockstep set of outlets

The Media. The evidence is even clearer here. Most Americans do not get their news from some ideologically congenial set of outlets. First, most Americans watch very little partisan news at all. People report watching partisan news in surveys but data on what they actually watch reveals that these surveys exaggerate. For example, Princeton political scientist Markus Prior found that about 18% of Americans call themselves “regular” viewers of Fox News, but only 5% actually watch at least an hour of Fox News every week.

Second, most Americans get news from non-partisan sources or a variety of sources. They are omnivores. UCLA’s Michael LaCour tracked media usage via devices that participants carried with them and that regularly recorded the ambient sounds around them. Here is his graph of whether news consumption was skewed to the left- or right-wing.

A positive score means watching and listening to media that is conservative, and a negative score means watching or listening to media that is liberal. But most people are clustered near zero. They have a pretty balanced news diet. LaCour’s findings are also consistent with the research of Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro, who examined news consumption on-line and found that most consumers read ideologically diverse new outlets. To be sure, if you isolate people who watch a lot of partisan news, their viewing habits reflect more skew. The same is true of people who read political blogs: they are anything but omnivores, according to my research with Eric Lawrence and Henry Farrell. But both groups are small.

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