Allow me to state the obvious: These are news desks and readerships that don’t always have the same priorities.
What’s clear is that people on both sides of the refugee debate — those who believe the United States should take them and those who do not — share an extremely high level of interest in the outcome. Which makes sense, considering the stakes. Depending on your perspective, America’s national security or its identity as a beacon of freedom (or both) is on the line.
What’s less clear is whether readers/viewers are actually learning and thinking critically about resettlement through all this media coverage or simply looking for information that reinforces the opinions that crystallized the moment they learned one of the Paris attackers might have been a Syrian refugee.
Here at The Fix, we noted Wednesday that 64 percent of Americans want to stop taking Syrian refugees altogether or accept only Christians, according to a Bloomberg poll. But there’s another key number in the survey: Only 8 percent replied “not sure” when asked about “the best approach for the U.S. to take with refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria.”
Put another way, 92 percent of Americans had already made up their minds three or four days after the Paris attacks, when the poll was conducted.
This helps explain why, as The Post’s Fact Checker covered Thursday, the misleading assertion that not one refugee resettled since 9/11 has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges went viral. It’s a great argument for those who want to continue accepting refugees from Syria — nevermind that it got two Pinocchios.
On the other side, one Republican presidential candidate after another has repeated the claim that President Obama plans to admit some six-figure number of Syrian refugees when, in fact, the United States accepts fewer than 100,000 refugees per year from the entire world, and the Obama administration has so far only opened the doors to 10,000 Syrians.
We know from academic studies of news consumption habits that people tend to pick media outlets whose coverage will confirm what they already think. And that certainly seems to be happening here -- people consuming news about the same debate with very different emphases and facts.
So the media will keep reporting, people will keep reading, watching and listening, and the refugee stories will keep piling up pageviews. But the conversation probably won’t change very much. Such is our political -- and political media -- reality.