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Hyperpartisan politicians get four times more coverage - BCB #46
Also: what happens science journals get political & we now have more echo chambers but less extreme content
A recent study reveals that hyperpartisan politicians received over four times the news coverage compared to bipartisan problem solvers during the 2022 midterm elections. Starts With Us, an organization aiming to bridge divisions, looked at how the press covers politicians who are more or less likely to work together to solve problems. The Common Ground Committee Scorecard evaluated politicians by examining whether they’ve worked on bipartisan legislation and how they promote finding common ground.
Starts With Us is asking top TV and online news sources to highlight stories of successful bipartisan cooperation. Its goals are to have media outlets feature a bipartisan problem solver by April 2023 and establish a primetime segment or homepage column by July 4, 2023.
The challenge here is that conflict draws audiences. Media organizations don’t just cover the most partisan because they like outrage, but because conflict involves recognizable figures and consistently attracts readers’ attention.
A 2020 survey discovered that Nature's endorsement of Joe Biden for the US presidency not only failed to increase support for Biden, but also diminished trust in Nature. This follows a larger trend: a general decline in confidence in US scientists, mostly (but not entirely) on the Red side.
Researchers for Impartiality argue that science journals and magazines that were once primarily focused on scientific findings and innovations are now increasingly addressing broader political topics. They document a large rise in “political” articles over the past 20 years.
While some articles more or less neutrally discuss the application of science in society, there is a noticeable rise in left-of-center political viewpoints, especially through coverage of politicized topics related to race and gender.
Of course, there is a long line of arguments that science and scientists should not be politically neutral, since their work so often has political implications. Roger Pielke Jr. argues that there’s a way for science to engage in politics without partisanship. Acknowledging that science has always been intertwined with politics, scientists can be intentional about politicizing science to advance important positions and policies. For example, the Federation of American Scientists was originally created to give voice to scientists who opposed the development of nuclear weapons.
However, this research demonstrates that partisan endorsements may backfire, decreasing public trust in scientific journals and the scientific community as a whole. Focusing on partisan politics may alienate certain sections of the public, jeopardizing broad public trust in scientific output. Even if you believe deeply in a particular political goal, activism and advocacy often depend on the existence of impartial research that everybody can believe in.
The study analyzed nearly one billion tweets from the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections, measuring the volume of politically biased content and the number of users propagating it. Researchers categorized media outlets from AllSides.com and MediaBiasFactCheck.com databases into fake, extreme, far left, center, and far right. They also identified influencers, or users with the greatest ability to spread news on the Twitter network. Results show a decline in “fake” and “extreme” articles due to an improvement in content moderation, but an increase in echo chamber behaviors across the two elections for both users and influencers.
Quote of the Week
There now is no economic cohesion holding either party together. Instead, both have conflicting wings. For the Republicans, it’s a pro-business elite combined with a working-class, largely white, often racially resentful base; for the Democrats, it’s a party dependent on the support of disproportionately low-income minorities, combined with a largely white, college-educated elite.