Friday, October 31, 2014

Pew “POLITICAL POLARIZATION & MEDIA HABITS” Survey Results Distorted by Skewed Questions

According to the “Ideological Placement of Each Source’s Audience” graph, the “[a]verage ideological placement on a 10-point scale of ideological consistency of those who got news from each source in the past week….” for Fox News on the conservative side and MSNBC and CNN on the liberal side are roughly equal, which feels intuitively okay. But Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh Show, The Blaze, Sean Hannity Show, and Glenn Beck Program equidistant from ground zero with New Yorker and Slate? This led me to look at the questions, and this is what I found.

But if the Conservative position is “Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient,” shouldn’t the liberal position be “Government is almost always useful and efficient” or something of the sort? If the Conservative position is “Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good,” shouldn’t the liberal position be “Government regulation of business usually does more good than harm”?

And so on. You can modify the conservative positions to make them symmetrical with the liberal positions, but the point remains the same: Maybe I’m missing something or making a huge mistake here, but the dividing line between “conservative” and “liberal” in the Pew survey seems to be clearly skewed to the right. Now, I do not think that Pew has a hidden ideological agenda here. Rather, this is a reflection of public discourse landscape in the United States today.

In any case, it’s always useful to look at the data behind the graph, and how that data is collected.

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