February 27, 2003

The drift of public mood…

Jack Shafer points to a facinating study of news consuming habits in his column about why MSNBC cancelled Phil Donahue’s show. Shafer claims the cancellation may be attributed to who watches cable news: conservatives.

According to the study, a greater percentage of self-identified conservatives “regularly watch, read, or listen to” news and information from a wide range of specific outlets than those who self-identify as liberals. Of the media listed in the graphic “Audience Ideology Profile,” self-identified liberals are the greater percentage of the audience for just one category: literary magazines. Hmmmm…

It’s difficult to image that liberals are not consuming news and information or that liberals make up such a tiny portion of the population. Rather, as the party structure of politics continues to erode, an ever-increasing number of people self-identify as “moderate” or “independent.” The terms “liberal” and “conservative” (as often applied to party identification) swing in and out of popularity with shifts in the public mood. Without a strong party structure in a citizen’s day-to-day experience of politics, similar to situations earlier in our history, citizens now drift back and forth across a broad moderate zone of ideology.

At the moment, the drift appears to be to the right of that zone. It would be folly to suppose that the public mood will loiter very long in any particular zone.

UPDATE (12:35 p.m.): Tapped offers a round-up of reasons for Phil’s demise.

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