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While others admit the growing politicization of news does create potential problems, they instead see the emergence of new sources of information as a welcome expansion of the nation's political dialogue. To them, the high-voltage talk shows and websites are signs of a public increasingly engaged on important issues - from Iraq to the role of religion in society.

Indeed, most Americans who tune into these alternative sources still tap into mainstream media as well. In addition to listening to "Democracy Now," Mr. Boland reads three newspapers a day. And Mr. Cunningham looks forward to the NRA's Cam & Company show so he can compare it with what he sees on the nightly news.

"For democracy, the thing you worry about is a world in which people don't get exposure to the other side," says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "And we're not in that world yet."

How, and why, viewing habits are changing

Still, there is evidence that the media-browsing public is getting more partisan right alongside the press.

A recent Pew Research Center study found that since 2000, the number of Americans who say they watch Fox News Channel regularly jumped from 17 percent to 25 percent, and most of those new viewers describe themselves as "politically conservative." Struggling against an apparent Republican-viewer revolt, Fox rival CNN has managed to draw in a growing number of Democratic-leaning viewers.

The trend is driven by several factors - some originating with the news outlets and others rooted in the public at large.

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