At the close of both the 2004 and 2008 elections we asked those who seek out online news whether they typically visit online news and information sites with a particular partisan “slant.” In 2004, 32% said that they usually go to sites that don’t have a particular point of view, while 26% said that they go to sites that share their own point of view and 21% said they went to sites that challenge their point of view.
Four years later, these figures have reversed. Today, one-third (33%) of online political users say that they usually go to sites that share their own point of view, while one-quarter (25%) typically go to sites that don’t have a particular point of view. The proportion of respondents who usually visit sites that challenge their existing viewpoint (21%) remained unchanged over this period.
This increase is driven in large part by partisans on both sides of the political spectrum. The percentage of Republicans who say they usually visit sites that share their point of view has grown from 26% in 2004 to 35% in 2008, while the percentage of Democrats who say this has grown from 34% to 44% over the same period of time. Responses among political independents to this question were nearly unchanged between 2004 (19%) and 2008 (22%).
However, the most notable change occurred among the youngest cohort of online news consumers. The percentage of online political users age 18-24 who typically seek out sites that share their point of view has grown from just 22% in 2004 to 43% in 2008, a nineteen percentage point increase.
As online political users take part more intensively in the online political process, or delve more deeply into the long tail on online political news content, they increasingly seek out sites with an overtly partisan point of view at the expense of sites that profess to be neutral. For instance, those who visit a wide range of online news sources are far more likely than those who visit a narrow range of news sources to say that they generally visit sites that share their point of view, and slightly more likely to visit sites that challenge their point of view. By contrast, less intense online news consumers are much more likely to look for news that is unbiased or does not have a political point of view.