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Media Trust Poll Reveals Deep Polarization

For the 4th straight year, Fox News scored the lowest ratings in Public Policy Polling’s poll of media institutions, but perhaps the most striking things is that people’s opinions about media organizations are as polarized as their opinions about everything else:

PPP’s annual poll on TV news finds that there’s only one source more Americans trust than distrust: PBS. 52% of voters say they trust PBS to only 29% who don’t trust it. The other seven outlets we polled on are all distrusted by a plurality of voters.

Just like its actual ratings, Fox News has hit a record low in the four years that we’ve been doing this poll. 41% of voters trust it to 46% who do not. To put those numbers into some perspective the first time we did this poll, in 2010, 49% of voters trusted it to 37% who did not. Fox has maintained most of its credibility with Republicans, dropping just from 74/15 to 70/15 over that period of time. But it’s been losing what standing it had with Democrats (from 30/52 to 22/66) and independents (from 41/44 to 32/56).

We find once again this year that Democrats trust everything except Fox, and Republicans don’t trust anything other than Fox. Democrats put the most faith in PBS (+61 at 72/11), followed by NBC (+45 at 61/16), MSNBC (+39 at 58/19), CBS (+38 at 54/16), CNN (+36 at 57/21), ABC (+35 at 51/16), and Comedy Central (+10 at 38/28). Out of the non-Fox channels Republicans have the most faith in PBS at -21 (27/48),  followed by NBC (-48 at 18/66), CNN (-49 at 17/66), ABC (-56 at 14/70), MSNBC (-56 at 12/68), CBS (-57 at 15/72), and Comedy Central (-58 at 8/66).

So, essentially what we have is a country in which people on the left and the right each have their own media institutions from which they get their own versions of reality. How, exactly, we’re supposed to combat polarization as long as that’s the case I haven’t the slightest clue.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jeremy R says:

    If I had been polled my ranking would have been something like:

    PBS,
    CBS,
    NBC,
    ABC,
    CNN / MSNBC,
    Comedy Central / FOX.

    As for trust vs distrust, probably just PBS, CBS & NBC depending on the degree of trust expressed in the question. Though maybe ABC has improved enough since Tapper’s departure for it to move back into the trust group too — I doubt it though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. john personna says:

    So, essentially what we have is a country in which people on the left and the right each have their own media institutions from which they get their own versions of reality.

    Actually no. The data do not support the idea that both sides do it. If they did, Republicans would trust Fox, Democrats would trust MSNBC, and no one would trust the others.

    The data show something different. Republicans are the ONLY group that ONLY trust their tailored message.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 49 Thumb down 3

  3. legion says:

    So, if you cross-ref this to the studies showing Fox to be a major source of misinformation, disinformation, and outright BS, you come to the inevitable conclusion that pretty much anyone who describes themself as Republican is an undereducated, gullible twit.

    Suspicions confirmed.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  4. john personna says:

    Really, this is amazing. Republicans don’t trust ABC, CBS, and NBC, and Doug accepts the explanation that those are biased liberal news sources, so biased in fact that they can’t be “trusted.”

    Astonishing.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 3

  5. mantis says:

    MSNBC is the closest thing to FOX News. None of the other outlets are in the same category whatsoever. While you and I may have our opinions about how well they do their job or what stories they choose to focus on, the ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS news shows are news journalism organizations. FOX and MSNBC are political opinion/entertainment channels that rarely do anything approaching journalism.

    If you think Republicans don’t watch the network news but everyone else does because those channels are partisan, you are wrong. It’s because they are news channels, and Republicans want to live in a bubble while the rest of us live in reality.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  6. rudderpedals says:

    None of these nationwide TV channels earn the stunning trust they poll at. These stations get you a view from nowhere (Newshour, the Sunday shows, generic he said/she said) or an entertainment offering from an entertainment corporation. Diamonds like Moyers weekly featuring actual journalism are the exception.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. john personna says:

    For what it’s worth, I think you can “trust” news sources which you expect to give you facts, even when you expect them to give you a spin. I trust Doug that far.

    The problem with Republicans (data above) is that they can’t quite parse that difference. The idiot downvoter above does not believe that ABC, NBC, and CBS are giving him facts … or he’s so far gone that facts he doesn’t want to know are as bad as lies, not to be trusted.

    (I think Fox simplifies to the point of lying. The title above, if it were not backed by the data below would be a lie. The data shows it as spin. That’s the difference. Fox will tell you “the left and the right each have their own media institutions from which they get their own versions of reality” and simply not report the underlying data.)

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  8. Murray says:

    ” but perhaps the most striking things is that people’s opinions about media organizations are as polarized as their opinions about everything else:”

    Striking? Not really. It would be striking if opinions about media organizations were NOT as polarized as about everything else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. al-Ameda says:

    Frankly, we have one group of people (Republicans) that is determined to create their own facts and their own version of reality, and another group of people (Liberals and “Independents”) who utilize information from the fact-based media.

    Public Policy polling just pointed to that situation again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  10. Woody says:

    The phrase “own versions of reality” implies a false choice. If Media A reports on a bill without editorial and Media B reports on a bill with a harsh denounciation, one could argue viewers of said medias lived in their own reality. But “reality” isn’t completely fungible – there is a point that a large percentage of sane people can agree that “this is reality”.

    I’ll state it again: Fox has largely assumed its audience – but there won’t be much growth, as the never-ending message of Democrats Evil Republicans Sainted has found all of the potentially-sympathetic viewers already.

    Every attempt to ensnare new viewers will reek of the Fonz speeding toward the ski-jump.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  11. andrew says:

    “Frankly, we have one group of people (Republicans) that is determined to create their own facts and their own version of reality, and another group of people (Liberals and “Independents”) who utilize information from the fact-based media.”

    So why are Democrats/”liberals” so poor at governance?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  12. David M says:

    @andrew:

    Why are conservative commenters so poor at ever providing examples?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  13. Tyrell says:

    People don’t like being told what to think. Some of these networks treat the viewers like they have an IQ of about 57. And with of course the effect of the internet; these “news” channels’ days are numbered. The lack of professionalism and objective reporting is appalling , especially when looking back at the days of CBS, NBC, Conkrite, Severeid, and Brinkley. Only Bob Schiefer can compare to their professionalism. What we have now are people hired because they are attractive or they are entertaining. You know there is a problem when Al Sharpton is put on tv;a man who hollars all the time, and Maddow who puts everybody down whom she disagrees with while constantly grinning and smirking. There was a time when these and most of these other so called commentators would not have even been allowed in the parking lot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  14. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    NBC, which has been caught twice in recent times dishonestly editing its material (the Zimmerman 911 tape and the Newtown father “heckled”), is actually trusted by 61% of Democrats?

    Jesus, they really are that stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  15. bernieyeball says:

    @Tyrell: People don’t like being told what to think.

    When the Premier Gas Bag Brush Lintoff started his nationally syndicated tent revival I gave it a listen.
    “I’ll tell you what to think!” was his mantra!
    Does he still say it? I tuned him out years ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. john personna says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “NBC News has fired a producer who worked on a ‘Today’ show segment that featured a heavily edited 911 recording in which George Zimmerman appears to racially profile Trayvon Martin before the teen’s shooting, according to The New York Times”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  17. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @john personna: Exactly. After getting caught, they threw one peon under the bus. And then, just months later, they did it again.

    And Democrats still believe them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  18. john personna says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    In you fantasy world he’d have been promoted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. bk says:

    @Tyrell:

    Al Sharpton is put on tv;a man who hollars all the time, and Maddow who puts everybody down whom she disagrees with while constantly grinning and smirking.

    It’s obvious that you don’t watch either of these shows. I watch them daily. Sharpton doesn’t “hollar” (sic) all of the time; Maddow doesn’t “put down” everyone with whom she may disagree.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    @Tyrell:

    People don’t like being told what to think.

    Considering that you believe that Germany is still at risk of being invaded by Russian tanks, you should be told what to think. Because leaving you alone to understand reality plainly isn’t working.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @andrew:

    So why are Democrats/”liberals” so poor at governance?

    So, keeping the economy for descending into another Great Depression, saving the auto industry, and ousting Qaddafi and killing Bin Laden are some examples of poor governance?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. mantis says:

    @Jay Tea’s dimwitted puppet Jenos Idanian #13:

    Exactly. After getting caught, they threw one peon under the bus.

    They fired the guy that broke the rules. Apparently in your mind they should have just shut down the network in response.

    Of course, FOX News traffics almost exclusively in deceptively edited video, but you never hear idiots like Jay Tea complain about it. They applaud it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mantis: That guy would never have even tried it unless he had damned good reason to think his bosses would be fine with it. And NBC never issued an on-air apology or correction.

    We’re still waiting for them to announce an “investigation” into the Newtown “heckling” editing. Maybe the original footage was being carried in an old GM pickup with side-saddle gas tanks… or was faxed from a Kinko’s in Texas…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  24. mantis says:

    @Jay Tea’s blind and dumb puppet Jenos Idanian #13:

    That guy would never have even tried it unless he had damned good reason to think his bosses would be fine with it.

    All evidence to the contrary. But do tell, how did you get this information about what the video editor at NBC was thinking?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. Just Me says:

    I don’t watch any TV news.

    I read news from a variety of online sources and the local paper.

    I don’t particularly trust any media source completely-more so in what they choose to not tell me than what they choose to tell me. I think the media has the most power to control the message in how they choose what is and isn’t a story than failing to factually report the story.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Tony W says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    NBC, which has been caught twice in recent times dishonestly editing its material….

    I would suspect that Fox has been caught only twice in recent times honestly editing its material.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. Tony W says:

    There was a time, even in my own youth, when news organizations purposely distanced themselves from the media and advertising and business units at their networks. Integrity and independence mattered then. Democracy itself was at stake.

    I’m not much of a nostalgia guy, but this is one area that is an exception for me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Diggle says:

    @Tyrell:

    Much of the reason why we don’t have the same standard in journalism anymore is because the used to be a rule to preserve it, the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine. It required TV channels and other news outlets to present both sides of a controversy, but was repealed in 1987 under the Reagan administration, and immediately gave rise to the type of news we have now (Source).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0