Mainstream American News Media: Is It as Polarized as Its Consumers Over the Issues of Climate Change, COVID, and Immigration? A Cross-Country Study of U.S. and U.K. News Media

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University of Delaware
Does U.S. news media really just cater to the existing partisan divide? Studies show that American society has grown more polarized on a partisan basis, yet in the United Kingdom, party loyalty is splintering and growing weak. If news media is truly just a business, we can expect U.S. news coverage to be more ideologically polarized than that of the U.K. The role of the media as a political influence has been the subject of much scholarship, but there lacks a database in which multiple content-related variables can be compared across countries. The objective of this study is to compare the media landscapes of the U.S. and the U.K. over shared political issues: climate change, COVID vaccines, and immigration. To do so, a collection of 600 articles across multiple news outlets in both the United States and the United Kingdom were quantified based on ideological leaning, key source, and article type. It was found that U.S. news articles are only slightly more likely to be ideological, and after controlling for the greater number of opinion articles in the U.S., there is no difference in the levels of ideology between the two countries’ media. This means that 1) the ideology of U.S. news coverage is not as dramatic as a business model would expect, and 2) if the U.S. news media is more ideological than that of the U.K., it is due to a greater number of opinion articles rather than innate outlet bias
News media, Media landscapes, Ideological polarity, News