A media watchdog group is making the case that Americans' penchant for "confirmation bias" is one of the major reasons their country is so deeply divided.
A recent survey suggests that an individual's opinion of how well the U.S. has handled the coronavirus outbreak offers fairly accurate insight to what news network(s) they watch. According to a Pew Research poll, 90% of Republicans (or those who "lean" Republican) who only watch Fox News or listen to talk radio to get their news say the U.S. has controlled the COVID outbreak as much as it could have. In contrast, among Democrats (or those who "lean" Democrat) who only watch liberal mainstream outlets – 3% believe the same thing. (See graph below)
By most accounts, America is a very divided nation right now – and according to Kyle Drennan of Media Research Center, biased news coverage is one of the main reasons.
"We have this very divided media landscape now where people, if they want to, can sort of just go and find voices that they agree with. I think it's always a good idea to watch a variety of different sources," he suggests.
That's called confirmation bias … and it not only shapes people's preferences – like being conservative or liberal, liking Donald Trump or hating him – it shapes people's perceptions of basic facts. Drennan contends that results in discussions becoming "political," even when the topic isn't political in nature.
"We should be able to talk about a public health crisis like this [coronavirus outbreak] without it all the time turning into a political debate; and without people, depending on what channel they happen to turn on, getting completely different views of what's going on," he tells OneNewsNow.
And although Drennan argues that Fox News does a better job at presenting opposing views than do most liberal outlets, he says no news organization is without fault – and should be doing some self-examination.
"If the media are looking at this result, they should be … saying that, 'Well, we have failed,'" he says. "If people are getting a totally different worldview based on what channel they're turning to, then that means a lot of these channels are not giving people a full picture."
According to Britannica.com, people are susceptible to confirmation bias because it's "an efficient way to process information" and because they seek information that supports their existing beliefs as a way to protect their self-esteem.
Image compliments of Pew Research Center.