by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
February 12, 2010
FOX NEWS NATION AND THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Recently, news stories proclaimed that the Fox News Channel was the most trusted television news source in the country. The stories were referring to a poll done by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, which asked Americans whether they trusted each of the country's major television news operations.
The only one with a positive review was Fox News. CNN did next best, followed by NBC News, then CBS News, and finally ABC News. But if you take a closer look at the numbers, the exact opposite is true.
PPP's poll, taken in mid-January, found that 49 percent of Americans say they trust Fox News, while 37 percent say they don't. Predictably, however, there is a large party split on this perception, with 74 percent of Republicans but only 30 percent of Democrats saying they trust Fox News.
When conservative voters were asked questions on the issue of trust and American media outlets, the split for Fox News was 75 percent of respondents saying it was trusted to only 13 percent saying the opposite. The trust numbers completely flop around for the three major networks - 16 percent to 67 for ABC, 15 percent to 66 for NBC and 14 percent to 68 for CBS. CNN fared a little better at 22 percent to 60.
Among liberal voters, the numbers were, as you'd expect, totally reversed. NBC came in first with 64 percent trusted against 22 percent not trusted. CNN was second at 63 percent to 21, followed by CBS at 56 percent to 29 and ABC at 50 percent to 31. Dead last was Fox News at 26 percent to 66 percent.
So, it's no surprise that conservatives have a near-universal faith in the infallibility of Fox News, while liberals do not. But how about those who call themselves moderates, the people who are supposed to be the swing voters in the November election? If you look at the numbers, they are about as skeptical as liberals regarding Fox News.
CNN was the moderates' top choice with 47 percent saying it was trusted against 31 percent not trusted. NBC and CBS had trust figures of 44 and 41, respectively, against 33 not trusted. ABC saw a 39 to 34 split and Fox News was last with a 33 to 48 split.
And here's the kicker regarding these numbers. Liberals made up 14 percent of the PPP poll, while moderates made up 47 percent. And both groups said Fox News is the least trusted name in news, and said so by a decisive margin. While liberals and moderates say they have no one single television news source that they watch faithfully, conservatives say they trust Fox News, period.
This explains a lot about where journalism, and where our nation is headed. It also explains the results of another poll, commissioned by the liberal Web site DailyKos.com and done by Research 2000. They asked 2,003 self-described Republicans some questions about what they believe. The results were startling.
Sixty-three percent said they thought President Obama was a socialist. Fifty-eight percent said they either don't believe Obama was born in the United States, or they aren't sure. Fifty-three percent said Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama. And 39 percent said Obama is racist and hates white people. The same number said Obama should be impeached.
Ninety-one percent support the death penalty. Seventy-seven percent oppose gay marriage. That same number believes public school students should be taught that the Book of Genesis explains how the world was created. Forty-eight percent equate contraception with abortion, something that 76 percent believe is murder. And 67 percent believes that anyone who is not a Christian is going to Hell.
Nate Silver, the expert parser of polls and proprietor of fivethirtyeight.com, said the most surprising about this DailyKos/Research 2000 poll was not its answers but it uniformity. He found there were few variations in the percentages, even when looking at age or region. "This accounts for what might be the Republicans' greatest strength as we head into the November midterms as well as their greatest liability," wrote Silver.
And how did the GOP get a base that thinks pretty much the same whether they live in the Northeast, the Midwest or the South? Because most of them watch Fox News, and have absorbed a narrative that attacks Obama, the Democratic Party and liberalism in general at every opportunity. When you have sizeable numbers of Americans who think like this, our nation becomes a lot harder to govern and a middle ground is nearly impossible to reach.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for nearly 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.