The Myth of Partisan Selective Exposure: A Portrait of the Online Political News Audience

Social Media + Society. 2017;3 DOI 10.1177/2056305117729314

 

Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Social Media + Society

ISSN: 2056-3051 (Online)

Publisher: SAGE Publishing

LCC Subject Category: Language and Literature: Philology. Linguistics: Communication. Mass media

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML

 

AUTHORS

Jacob L. Nelson
James G. Webster

EDITORIAL INFORMATION

Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 12 weeks

 

Abstract | Full Text

Many assume that in a digital environment with a wide range of ideologically tinged news outlets, partisan selective exposure to like-minded speech is pervasive and a primary cause of political polarization. Yet, partisan selective exposure research tends to stem from experimental or self-reported data, which limits the applicability of their findings in a high-choice media environment. We explore observed online audience behavior data to present a portrait of the actual online political news audience. We find that this audience frequently navigates to news sites from Facebook, and that it congregates among a few popular, well-known political news sites. We also find that political news sites comprise ideologically diverse audiences, and that they share audiences with nearly all smaller, more ideologically extreme outlets. Our results call into question the strength of the so-called red/blue divide in actual web use.