Pew, which admitted after the fact that it manipulated public opinion to ease the passage of the misnamed Campaign Finance Reform  legislation, looks to me to be trying the same trick again. I can't see the  legislative agenda hidden in this doesn't— pass— the— laugh— test —tribute— to —bad— social— science. No purpose evident other than to demean Rush and his audience, but chances there is one somewhere.

Researchers at the University of Missouri—Columbia School of Journalism have completed a study suggesting that it is the type of media a person consumes, not necessarily the message, that determines how polarized people are on a certain issue.

Journalism professors Wayne Wanta and Stephanie Craft and journalism doctoral student Mugur Geana used data from a telephone survey administered nationally to 2,528 adults in the United States. Survey respondents answered a series of questions on the government, religion and a combination of those areas, and then their polarization scores were calculated. The researchers then compared variables such as income level, main news source and interaction time with the media to the polarization scores.

The study found radio listeners were the most polarized news consumers, due in part to shows hosted by conservative political commentators such as Rush Limbaugh. Conservative listeners have their ideals reinforced by the shows, which ultimately lead to even more extreme views, Wanta said. Newspaper readers were the least polarized news consumers. Since newspapers do not have the same space and time constraints as television or radio, newspapers are able to provide readers with more information on both sides of an issue. As a result, Wanta said, readers are less likely to adopt extreme attitudes about certain issues.

"Overall, our findings point to radio being a possible reason for the increasing polarization of the U.S. public," Wanta said. "This apparent polarization effect of radio is probably not caused by the amount of information radio listeners receive. If respondents had been using media content as an information source to crystallize their own opinions, we would likely see the same—if not stronger—effect with newspapers or the Internet—media that have information that is more in—depth than the content on radio."  

Frankly, lots of other explanations come more readily to mind for the increasing polarization of politics in America. And I offer them free of charge to Pew.

First and foremost, I think, is  the nastiness of the Democrats  who have clearly lost majority status and reflexively are fighting every initiative of the Administration and the  perfectly natural response to that..That party has lost its center, relying more  on hyperbolic,hateful rhetoric which pleases its extreme base and contributors but also inspires a strong response. Have the DNC Chairman say he hates Republicans and  the party Senate whip call the troops Nazi—like and you cannot expect a soft reply.It takes the kind of creative analysts found in journalism schools(like the authors of this study) to suggest Rush and his listeners are responsible for this.

And then, of course, there is the  the liberal mainstream media's loss of the monopoly position it  once held to the competition of the  alternate media and its with it many readers and listeners who formerly had no other source of information. With  a monopoly press, it's harder to mount an opposition. The alternate media has not only inspirited the opposition to the Democrats, but at last given the public access to a fuller factual picture upon which to base their opinions then they were getting and infinitely better analysis and ideas then the legacy media peddles.Once armed, we can hardly be expected not to respond when lies and biased reporting continue to be offered up by the print press as standard fare.

Clarice Feldman   6 27 05