People Watch Political News They Agree With

Both liberals and conservatives turn only to news sources they trust, and whether discussing politics online or with friends, they interact with like-minded individuals, a study finds.

A new Pew Research Center survey looks at how people get information about government and politics in news media, social media and conversation with friends and family. In all three, the study finds that those with the most consistent ideological views on the left and right have information streams that are distinct from those of individuals with more mixed political views.

Most Americans also rely on an array of outlets—with varying audience profiles—for political news. Many consistent conservatives and liberals hear dissenting political views in their everyday lives.

Those at both the left and right ends of the spectrum, who constitute about 20% of the public, have a greater impact on the political process than do those with more mixed ideological views. They are the most likely to vote, donate to campaigns and participate directly in politics.

Some interesting differences crop up between those who identify themselves as conservative, versus those who describe themselves as liberal. On Facebook, conservatives are likelier than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views. Conservatives also are more likely to have friends who share their own political views. Two-thirds (66%) say most of their close friends share their views on government and politics.

Those with consistently liberal views are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or “defriend” someone on a social network—as well as to end a personal friendship—because of politics. Liberals tend more to follow issue-based groups, rather than political parties or candidates, in their Facebook feeds.

Among the key findings:

  • Nearly half of consistent conservatives (47%) name Fox News as their main source for government and political news, as do almost a third (31%) of those with mostly conservative views. No other sources come close.
  • Consistent liberals volunteer a wider range of main sources for political news—no source is named by more than 15% of consistent liberals and 20% of those who are mostly liberal.
  • Consistent liberals are more than twice as likely as Web-using adults overall to name National Public Radio (13% vs. 5%), MSNBC (12% vs. 4%) and The New York Times (10% vs. 3%) as their top source for political news.
  • Among the large group of respondents with mixed ideological views, CNN (20%) and local TV (16%) are top sources; Fox News (8%), Yahoo News (7%) and Google News (6%) round out their top five sources.