Arc Digital
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Arc Digital

The Media Habits of Trump and Clinton Voters

Our age of non-overlapping information sources

(The New York Times)

According to a recent Pew Report, during the election, Trump and Clinton voters were getting their news from different sources.

That’s not exactly a bombshell. Still, the particulars are interesting.

This chart shows the main source of news for Trump and Clinton voters:

There is less concentration, and less dependence, on any one source among Clinton voters. Enough Trump voters listed local radio to bring it past the threshold for inclusion; Clinton voters, by contrast, cited NPR. Clinton voters cited The New York Times, as well as local newspapers; Trump voters cited TV-first media entities, a social media giant, and local TV and radio broadcasts.

In this next chart, Pew gives us the choices made by Trump and Clinton voters with respect to digital-native outlets:

I realize that The Huffington Post, Yahoo News, and Drudge Report aggregate news from other sources, but these outlets also produce their own commentary. I’m not sure why Google News is included in this list. All they do is aggregate. They’re not a source in their own right.

What stands out among Trump voters is the extent to which they read The Huffington Post. It’s only a couple percentage points lower than the fanatically pro-Trump Breitbart and Drudge sites. On the Clinton side, their voters can’t be bothered to read those two sources — and I can’t blame them.

It’s not shown in the above charts, but Bernie Sanders voters relied a lot more than Trump and Clinton voters on social media for their news consumption.

What’s the significance of all this?

It shows that Trump and Clinton voters got (and likely still get) their news from different sources in two important ways. First, they differ with respect to their main source. Second, they differ with respect to the digital-native sources they regularly visit.

This is the epistemic closure of the news and opinion consumer.

And it’s the reason why some have expressed to me a concern that Arc is not sufficiently partisan to navigate the media space successfully.

Think about that for a second.

We may not make it, according to some observers, because we’re not partisan enough.

There’s nothing wrong with being ideologically committed, but is it possible that a longing exists for an approach to news and opinion that is at one and the same time open about its perspective, but also open to other perspectives?

I hope so. Because that’s what we’re trying to do here on Arc. And we think it’s what will serve readers the best.

This chart has been shared quite a bit on social media since the election:

I’m not sure how much value we can get from a chart that uses “Basic AF” as a category, but I post it to highlight a couple of things.

It might be thought that one can balance his or her news and opinion intake by regularly reading sources from “both sides” of the ideological divide. The problem is the news and opinion world is better conceived of as existing on a spectrum. A “conservative/liberal” binary is thus unhelpful.

Socialists make a distinction between themselves (leftists) and other liberals. Steve Bannon, former CEO of Breitbart, wants nothing to do with a conservative agenda. Pretty soon the conservative/liberal binary shows itself to be inadequate.

What’s more, to employ the binary is to forget there is a center.

There are sources that lean, sources that skew, and sources that veer so far in a given direction that they’ve dropped any pretense of belief in the capacity for objectivity.

But there is also the center, a place which can be of great service when one lacks the time and energy to weigh claim and counterclaim against each other from sources of a more partisan nature.

There is an ambiguity in the notion of the center. It can refer to a publication which produces an equal number of articles from each of the two main perspectives, or it can refer to a publication which produces news from a non-partisan, objective, unbiased perspective. The word centrist can apply to both cases.

I think there is a need and a craving for both.

News consumers who aren’t just looking for ideological confirmation, the ones who are actually looking to learn and become smarter — these are the ones in search of quality analysis. Given the specialization of knowledge, it’s really hard these days to be informed to the degree that is necessary to independently verify each and every claim one reads. You expect the publication you’re trusting for analysis to not lead you astray.

Our newsletter, “The Weekly Arc,” gives you really good reads in politics, religion, social issues, economics, tech, pop culture, and sports.

We pull stuff from the sites listed above, on the chart, and also from other excellent places the chart doesn’t even mention.

We hope to be an antidote to the epidemic of unthinking tribalism that has come to dominate our political culture.

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