TV Contributes to Partisan Divide More Than Online News

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Binge-watching Fox News or MSNBC? A study found you’re less likely to watch any other TV news source, which strengthens polarization.

Researchers confirmed that TV news contributed more to partisan polarization than social media and other Internet news sources.

Based on TV news viewing, the study found that “17% of Americans are politically polarized – 8.7% to the left and 8.4% to the right – based on their TV news consumption. That’s three to four times higher than the average percentage of Americans polarized by online news.”

The percentage of Americans polarized by TV spiked during Nov. 2016 when Donald Trump was elected US President and again in Dec. 2018 when Democrats dominated the midterm elections. Study authors state these spikes indicate a correlation between political TV ads for the campaigns and polarization.

TV news consumers are also more likely to remain polarized than online news consumers. After six months, “left-leaning TV audiences are 10 times more likely to remain segregated than left-leaning online audiences, and right-leaning audiences are 4.5 times more likely than their online counterparts.” However, after six months, most TV viewers do change their “news diets”: 80% of left-leaning and 70% of right-leaning. Only about 4% of the population remains in long-term partisan echo chambers.

Discussion Questions

1. What factors might make TV news more polarizing than online news sources? Explain your answer(s).

2. Is your news diet balanced? Consider the sources and platforms where you get information.

3. Do you believe you are politically polarized? Explain your answer(s).


Homa Hosseinmardi, “Don’t Be Too Quick to Blame Social Media for America’s Polarization – Cable News Has a Bigger Effect,”, Sep. 4, 2022