The biggest news story of the year depends on your political party.
Polling from Morning Consult that asked about 2,000 registered voters throughout 2021 how much they had heard about current events and found there was a partisan split when it comes to which stories voters say they had seen, read or heard “a lot” about.
For Republicans, the top story of the year was the condominium that collapsed in Surfside, Florida, in June, with more than 60% of Republican voters saying they’d heard “a lot” about it. For Democrats, the top stories were President Joe Biden signing the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package into law and Biden’s inauguration, at more than 70%.
The polling found voters were less likely to hear a lot about stories that were bad news for their party or its leaders. Slightly more Republicans had heard a lot about the U.S. exit from Afghanistan than Democrats, and Republicans were 20 points more likely to have heard a lot about rising gas prices than Democrats.
Meanwhile, Democrats were 26 points more likely to have heard a lot about former President Donald Trump threatening Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the results in the state.
The findings underscore a partisan information crisis facing America.
Republicans have historically been more distrustful of the news media than Democrats and independents, Gallup polling has found, and since 2015, Republican trust in the media has fallen to just 11% who say they they trust the news media a “great deal” or “fair amount.”
The news media’s failure to reach these voters has consequences. A July AP-NORC poll found 66% of Republicans do not believe Biden was legitimately elected, while a November Kaiser Family Foundation poll found Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe or be unsure about false claims about COVID-19.
One solution might be less partisan and more local news. A survey of more than 3,000 local news readers who consider themselves conservative or right leaning conducted by the Center for Media Engagement found these media consumers saw value in local news and they felt it told them relevant information about their communities.
“I think you can also sort of infer from what they said that, to them, local issues tend to be less partisan in general,” Gina Masullo, the study’s primary researcher, told Columbia Journalism Review. “If you care about whether there’s a dog park in your community, that’s not really a partisan issue. They felt like local news was invested in their community and that made them more trusting.”