When people think of the news, they may not think of a media outlet that provides facts and information about current events while being completely unbiased. They may think about how certain news sources such as CNN or Fox News are not always unbiased but instead, are known to talk critically of either the left or right political side of America. The increasing polarization has become more evident over the last few years and especially recently, as the election draws nearer. According to Forbes, a recent study reveals that American media is the most polarized amongst western countries. The gap between the right and left is not typical, as most news sources across Europe garner views from a mix of right and left-wing citizens.
As people turn to the news to see what is going on within the country and what each candidate for the election has said, the information that they take in is not unbiased. Media has become both reflective and a major contributory factor of polarization, as news outlets like CNN and Fox make up 12-15% of the nation’s most polarizing brands. In 2018, according to MarketWatch, the difference in net favorability between liberals and conservatives for CNN was at an average of 66 points. In 2019, however, it grew to 80 - a result of a loss of 12 points due to Republicans, who viewed all news outlets except Fox more negatively than their Democratic counterparts. As Pew Research states, “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades.”
Because of how polarized the media has become over the past several years, many people have adopted a “my way or the highway mentality” which results in inaction and lack of compromise. People have become less willing to let go of their beliefs that they have held onto for so long. Pew Research mentions that overall, the amount of Americans who maintain consistently liberal or conservative viewpoints has doubled over the course of the past two decades - from 10% to 21%. Due to the polarization in the media, people are not seeing objective news or content that is purely informational, which leads them to continue to believe what they see and hear from whatever news source they are tuning in to.
A positive effect, however, of polarization in the media is that individuals that strongly identify with a political party or group may gain a sense of purpose and meaning from an alliance built with those with similar beliefs, and a sense of unity as they work together against opposing views. Belonging to a group that believes in the same things that you do may help people feel a sense of belonging and feel encouraged.
While there are a few positive effects of polarization, it is undeniable that it does pose threats that continue to divide the country. Frank Newport of the Gallup argues that to overcome the threats of polarization, we as a society need to collectively shift our attention to how we can manage and adapt to external issues such as climate change, unstable populations, fluctuating world economies, etc. It is important to try to consume media that is unbiased and try to look objectively at things as much as possible before forming an opinion. In this way, we will be able to shift our attention towards things that are important and are of dire need of attention and change.
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