How News Bias Limits Potential Audiences

Lance's Line RadioInsight Blog

NPR Pew Research News Consumption Study Rush Limbaugh Sean Hannity Glenn BeckIn a year-long study on political polarization published today, The Pew Research Center has released data on how American’s receive and trust news sources.

Among the takeaways from the study, Pew states that the 20% of the population who label themselves as “Consistently Liberal” or “Consistently Conservative” are the most likely to vote, donate to campaigns and participate directly in politics. The other 80% are classified as “Mostly Liberal”, “Mixed”, or “Mostly Conservative”.

Among radio brands included in the study, NPR is considered the most used news source by 53% and most trusted by 72% of those at the extreme left of the political spectrum. Not surprisingly Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck are trusted by 0% of the Consistenly Liberal panelists. At the extreme right end, Fox News is by far the most consumed at 88% with Sean Hannity (radio & TV), Limbaugh, and Beck trailing behind.

Those who consider themselves Mixed, and even Mostly Conservative or Liberal don’t use those radio sources that much. Less than 25% of those who label as Mostly Liberal use NPR, less than 20% of Mostly Conservatives listen to Hannity, Limbaugh, or Beck and that drops to just 3% of Mixed political beliefs. That means there’s 80% of the population who are mostly tuned out of News and Talk radio.

While many of these respondents simply don’t care about politics, it does appear that radio is missing out by positioning most of its Talk stations so far to one extreme. With Conservative Talk suffering from demographic issues becoming billing issues, wouldn’t it be in the best interest of the format to move it towards the middle of the road and repairing the lack of trust seen from the majority of the potential audience.

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  1. johndavis says

    As one of those persons in the middle, I’m not sure what I want out of talk radio. I don’t want to go back to the days of toaster talk where Aunt Maude calls in to guess what day it’s going to first hit 100 degrees this year (boring), and I absolutely have no need for politics on the radio (irritating). That well is so poisoned that I don’t want any of it.

    But I consume a lot of sports radio, and the shows aren’t all sports, especially once football season is over. For me, that has replaced the talk radio that I used to listen to in the 90’s.

  2. radioperson says

    Political talk never was a big ratings getter until the genre was re-invented as a sporting event play-by-play presentation, anchored by team cheerleaders who rooted for the “home team” and booed “the opponents”. Naturally, this opened up a whole new audience….an audience who does not have the ability to judge issues and events on their own merits….an audience who needs a team to cheer and a team to boo, The foibles, shortcomings and corruption of the home team are rarely discussed and the good ideas and honorable members of the opposing team are rarely acknowledged.

    Good guys and bad guys.

    Simple, dumb rah-rah crap for simple, dumb people.

    Well, little by little — it seems — that the younger side of the country ain’t falling for it anymore. They have seen corruption on BOTH sides, graft on BOTH sides and ineptitude on BOTH sides.

    They ain’t buying the “good guys vs. bad guys” routine any more.

  3. smashedcd says

    I am not liberal. But I am not conservative either. In some ways I am liberal..some I am conservative. I am a hippy with long hair that doesnt believe in abortion but believes in equal rights for everyone. But besides that I dont trust Hannity or Linbaugh..I listen to NPR more than those clowns. But thats not very often either. Heck I dont care about talk radio at all for the most part..

  4. Zdauph says

    I think you’ve hit on an interesting point there… the way I read the study and the comments here, I get the impression that those 80% of Americans in the middle just don’t care about politics, for many reasons… I’m betting that there is no “catch all” news/talk format that would please these listeners (outside of sports talk.)

    I’m interested to see what the new “Fox Sports Radio” with a split between sports and general entertainment will sound like.

  5. Mark says

    And it should be pointed out that despite NPR’s high marks for trustworthiness, their comment forums are filled with complaints from the far right (usually on alleged bias towards Democrats and stories on race, gender, sexual preference and climate change) and calls for federal defunding AND from the far left regarding stories interpreted as favorable to Republicans, the military, corporations (as in ANY business news story) and anything on pop culture (some of which comes from the right, especially if it’s pop music) and calls for no more corporate underwriting and funding announcements.. All of which proves that if NPR is pushing buttons on both extremes, they must be doing something right.

  6. aaronread says

    I haven’t been able to read the entire report, but do they objectively define what “liberal” and “conservative” actually mean? If it’s just self-reporting, that doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. What defines someone as “conservative” or “liberal” has shifted a whole lot in the last ten years. And the ten years before that. And probably every ten years going back to the birth of mass media. A lot of positions that pass as “very liberal” today was “moderate,” if not “slightly conservative” back in the late 1980’s. So that doesn’t necessarily mean that how people self-identify really lines up how others self-identify.

  7. jimh says

    I don’t really listen to political talk either….too one-sided and boring, same-old same-old topics, etc. No interest in sports talk at all. Do like financial talk a lot (Howard, Ramsey, Edelman, etc)….but the usually non-political, general-topics talk found on AM640 in Toronto during the late morning thru late afternoon time frame is especially good

  8. Dr. Akbar says

    Without passion, what’s the point? The Libs on the left are just as fired-up as the NeoCons on the right. In the middle is mush. Successful Talkradio gets it, and now Sportstalk, too. Passions run deep at each extreme, and what’s in the center probably drives an Avalon, Regal or Taurus while wondering “is it raining where you are?”.

    1. radioperson says

      —-Without passion, what’s the point? The Libs on the left are just as fired-up as the NeoCons on the right. In the middle is mush.

      Well, in terms of pure WWF-style “entertainment, you are probably right. People in the middle tend not to be wired in such a way where name calling, yelling, stereotypes and blind loyalty to a “team” is part of their nature. This probably makes for dull radio for those who mistake testosterone for intelligence.

      —-Successful Talkradio gets it, and now Sportstalk, too. Passions run deep at each extreme, and what’s in the center probably drives an Avalon, Regal or Taurus while wondering “is it raining where you are?”.

      Gee, speaking of stereotypes….


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