Friday, November 7, 2014

Who Do You Trust?

 For political news.

Your answer depends on your partisan leanings.

A survey by the Pew Research Center, Political Polarization and Media Habits, queried people about where they obtain their information and which outlets they trust – or do not trust.

But before discussing survey findings, I cannot resist a few comments on Election Day 2014.

First of all, Good riddance!

Negative campaigning overwhelmed any significant messages. Honestly (a strange term to many politicians), I tuned out.

In my current state of residence, New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker, appointed to finish the term of the former senator who died in office, then won a special election for a one year term, sought a full term of his own. Polls indicated he was way ahead of his opponent. It was not much of a contest.

My local Republican Congressman faced a Democratic opponent trailing badly in the polls, as every Democratic challenger has done over the past eleven elections. Again, not much of a contest.

No excitement here.

Our Governor took a hiatus from governing the state to campaign for governors and would-be governors around the country. Nothing like getting the name Christie out there before the 2016 Presidential election heats up.

Major news outlets covered Senate and Gubernatorial races around the country ad nauseum. Months of political naysaying and innuendo, lies and misused statistics, finger pointing and no substance are finally over, until the next time—which comes sooner and sooner each election cycle.

The mention of news outlets brings me back to the Pew survey. The newsgathering behavior of what the survey termed consistent liberals and consistent conservatives – those on either end of the political scale – are summarized below:

* The main source of news for conservatives is FOX News, taking 47% of the votes.

* Liberals utilize a broader range of news sources, citing CNN, NPR, New York Times, and MSNBC as top news suppliers, but none received more than 15% of the votes.

* Top political news choices of middle of the roaders is CNN, local news, FOX News, Yahoo News and Google News.

The survey gets interesting when asked which media sources people trust – or distrust.

* Liberals trust 28 of the 36 news sources named in the survey. Conservatives, on the other hand, distrust 24 of the 36 news outlets.

* NPR, PBS and BBC are liberals’ most trusted news sources.

* Conservatives’ most trusted sources are FOX News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.

* Sources trusted by everyone except the most conservative are The Economist, BBC, ABC News, USA Today, and Google News.

* The only news source trusted by everyone across the political spectrum is The Wall Street Journal.

* The list of news sources distrusted by liberals reads like a conservative manifesto:

81% distrust FOX News, 75% distrust Rush Limbaugh, 59% distrust Glenn Beck and 54% distrust Sean Hannity - the most trusted news sources cited by consistent conservatives.

* The most distrusted news source mentioned by 75% of conservatives is MSNBC.

This jumble of statistics reveals no political epiphany. They only reinforce the view that liberals and conservatives, although sharing one world and one country, are in fact from different planets. Mars and Venus are already taken, so I will take a leap and suggest the two groups inhabit Mercury and Neptune (your choice which group occupies which planet), with moderates sprinkled in between.

Meanwhile most of the electorate, exhausted from the electioneering, are thrilled the election is over. However we will enjoy only a too-brief time-out before being barraged once again by a slew of Presidential contenders attempting to influence our minds and secure our votes.

People’s opinions will be influenced by the media they consider the most trustworthy.

Which means nothing much will change.

Here’s a radical idea. Maybe it should be mandatory before voting for everyone to read the political coverage in The Wall Street Journal (the only news source accepted as trustworthy by everyone)…

The Pew survey contains lots more interesting data. Click here to read more.