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Fox News most trusted on TV — and the least

September 25, 2009 - Jim Anderson
Fox News is a prominent, divisive force in the national news media.

That’s one conclusion that can be drawn from a recent survey conducted by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute. The national survey of 800 Americans, “Trust and Satisfaction with the National News Media,” was conducted from Sept. 8-11.

Among national television news organizations, Fox News was trusted the most — and the least.

When asked which national television news organization they trusted most for accurate reporting. Fox News was named by 30 percent of respondents. That’s up from 19.5 percent in 2003 and 27 percent in 2007. Trailing Fox were CNN, 19.5 percent; NBC News, 7.5 percent; and ABC News, 7.5 percent.

Bill O’Reilly mentioned on his Sept. 24 Fox show that his network placed first in the poll as the most trusted. But he left it at that.

What O’Reilly didn’t say is that Fox News was cited by 26.2 percent of respondents as the least trusted television news organization.

Placing a distant second in the least-trusted category was NBC News, at 9.9 percent, followed by MSNBC, 9.4 percent; CNN, 8.5 percent; CBS News, 5.3 percent; and ABC News, 3.7 percent.

Researchers also asked respondents which television news organization they turned to most frequently. The top four were Fox News, 28.4 percent; CNN, 14.9 percent; NBC News, 10.6 percent; and ABC News, 9.3 percent. Fox is up slightly in this category since 2007, while the others are all down slightly. Respondents were asked if they selected their favorite because of objective reporting or because of views on issues. Nearly 60 percent suggested they made their selection based on objective reporting. Only 19 percent said they chose their favorite because they share the same views on issues.

When asked to name the most trusted news anchor, the top six mentioned were Charles Gibson (ABC), 19.8 percent; Brian Williams (NBC), 17.3 percent ; Katie Couric (CBS), 9.9 percent; Bill O’Reilly (FOX), 9.3 percent; Tom Brokaw (NBC special correspondent), 8 percent; and Jim Lehrer (PBS), 2.4 percent.

One of the most surprising results, to me, is that 60 percent claim their TV viewing habits are tied to objective reporting. Only 20 percent say they seek out views similar to their own. I suspect that number should actually be much higher.

For instance, former Bush aide Karl Rove is a frequent prime time Fox commentator. Do faithful Fox viewers actually believe that Rove is a good source for objective commentary? Maybe so.

But they’d be wrong.

Similarly, how would MSNBC viewers rate the objectivity of former Democratic Chairman Howard Dean, a frequent guest and occasional host in prime time? Is he going to be generous to congressional Republicans?

I’m not saying it’s wrong to watch Fox, or MSNBC. But it’s important to be aware of their alignments — stated or otherwise.

To say that you mainly watch them for the sake of “objectivity” seems foolish.

At the same time, many Americans do have a healthy skepticism towards the national media. Nearly 70 percent agreed the national news media is intent on promoting the Obama presidency while 26.5 percent disagreed.

That would indicate that it’s not only Fox viewers who are open to critical assessments of Obama. The left, the center — and the right — all have doubts about the national media.


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