Slanted Objectivity? Perceived Media Bias, Cable News Exposure, and Political Attitudes*
Objectives. This research explores the consequences of a fragmented television news audience. The recent proliferation of a wide array of television news sources has influenced the manner in which a large number of Americans get their information about politics and government. The political consequences of media fragmentation and the polarization of the U.S. television news audience are explored. Methods. I analyze data on television news-gathering habits and political attitudes collected from several surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center during the 2004 presidential election campaign. Results. The Fox News Channel has been the main beneficiary of television news fragmentation by appealing to those individuals who have become disillusioned with what they perceive as a liberally-biased mainstream media. The findings show that the Fox News audience has a distinct set of political attitudes regarding President Bush and his opposition. Evidence also indicates that the Fox News audience has distinct voting behavior patterns, even when controlling for party identification. Finally, the results illustrate that Fox News watchers have perceptions of political reality that differ from the rest of the television news audience. Conclusions. The television news audience is divided along political lines. This division could contribute toward further political polarization among the U.S. mass public as the content of television news coverage of politics becomes less and less homogenized.