How Polarized Are Online and Offline News Audiences? A Comparative Analysis of Twelve Countries

In this paper the authors develop a way of measuring how polarized news audience behaviour is at the national level, and then apply this measure to a number of countries and types of news media.

Abstract:

Polarization is a key area of interest for media and communication scholars. We develop a way of measuring how polarized news audience behaviour is at the national level. Then, we analyze survey data from twelve countries and find (1) that cross-platform (online and offline) news audience polarization is highest in the United States, and within Europe, higher in polarized pluralist/southern countries than in democratic corporatist countries. Furthermore, (2) in most countries, online news audience polarization is higher than offline, but in a small number it’s lower. Taken together, our findings highlight that, despite the well-documented fears associated with algorithmic selection, news audience polarization is not inevitable in environments that are increasingly characterized by digital news consumption, and that the historical, economic, and political factors emphasized by the comparative tradition remain critically important for our understanding of global trends.