A Turn Toward Avoidance? Selective Exposure to Online Political Information, 2004–2008
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Scholars warn that avoidance of attitude-discrepant political information is becoming increasingly common due in part to an ideologically fragmented online news environment that allows individuals to systematically eschew contact with ideas that differ from their own. Data collected over a series of national RDD surveys conducted between 2004 and 2008 challenge this assertion, demonstrating that Americans’ use of attitude-consistent political sources is positively correlated with use of more attitudinally challenging sources. This pattern holds over time and across different types of online outlets, and applies even among those most strongly committed to their political ideology, although the relationship is weaker for this group. Implications for these findings are discussed.
KeywordsSelective exposure Media Polarization Online news Elections
Thanks to Paul Beck, Lance Holbert, Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, Brendan Nyhan, and the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful criticisms and suggestions, to Jim Danziger for his support of and Debbie Dunkle for her assistance with data collection and preparation of the 2008 NSF-funded survey, and to Lee Rainie and the Pew Internet and American Life Project for providing the other datasets. This research was supported by NSF (SES 0121232).
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