Partisan selective exposure to news or echo chambers seems not to be the main driver for political polarization, a new study finds. Researchers Jacob L. Nelson and James G. Webster, of Northwestern University, studied audience behaviour on political news sites in the United States. They used comScore data tracking audiences’ behaviours, looking at ideological profiles of political news sites and where the visits to sites originated from.
Results show that online news audience tends to gather at a few popular news sites, like Yahoo, the New York Times, and ABC. Visits often originate from social networking sites, namely Facebook.
Political news sites comprise ideologically diverse audiences. They share audiences with nearly all smaller, more ideologically extreme outlets, the authors write. People also spent comparable amounts of time on differently inclined sites.
The researchers conclude, contrary to some previous studies, that partisan selective exposure is not occurring when it comes to online news consumption. Political news consumption looks surprisingly similar regardless of visitors’ political preferences, they state.
The authors do not argue that fears of political polarization are groundless. They propose future studies should look at how audiences engage with political news. “If “echo chambers” are not to blame for increasing political polarization, what is?” they conclude.
The article “The Myth of Partisan Selective Exposure“ was published in Social Media + Society and is available online as an open access article.
Picture: untitled by Paul Dufour, license CC0 1.0