Two University of Chicago researchers recently measured ideological segregation on the Web - the idea that in this new media age, people can avoid news outlets that challenge their ideological presuppositions. Their report, "Ideological Segregation Online and Offline," tracked how people of different political views move around the Internet.
One finding: The New York Times is a liberal newspaper. Or at least its readership is the most liberal of any of the news outlets studied that held themselves out as an "objective" news source.
Included on Table 3 (page 34 of the report) were the purportedly objective print outlets like U.S. News & World Report, Time, Newsweek, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.
Only 33% of the Times readers were conservative, meaning of all the "objective" publications it came in dead last for conservative appeal. Newsweek was closest, at 56%, while both of the other newspapers, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, swamped the Times for conservative appeal: 68% of the readership of both papers are conservative.
Throw in the three broadcast networks, the three big cable networks (Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN) and PBS, and the New York Times still came in dead last for the share of its audience that called itself conservative. Even the left-wing MSNBC boasts a viewership 62% conservative. Not surprisingly, Fox News leads that tally: Eighty-one percent of its viewers are conservative.
The report summarized the results on page 17:
Readers of the New Yorker and the Atlantic are relatively liberal, while readers of Barron's are relatively conservative. Readers of the New York Times print edition are substantially more liberal than those of USA Today or the Wall Street Journal. Quantitatively, offline audiences may be less polarized than some would have suspected. One fifth of Fox News' audience is liberal, and 33 percent of New York Times readers are conservative.
The chasm isn't quite as wide online, but (Table 2, page 33) nytimes.com still arrived in last place for conservative audience with 40%, with CNN the closest "objective" media outlet at 54%. By comparison, 27 percent of readers of the far-left DailyKos site are conservative.