Politics | Analysis
March 7, 2017 at 4:43 PM
One of the greatest magic tricks that Fox News has pulled over its history is somehow convincing its audience that Fox stands outside the mainstream media. Fox is the most-watched cable news network in the country, a title it has held for 15 years. Meaning that there are now kids who are juniors in high school who've never lived in an America where Fox wasn't the most popular cable news network. And yet Fox regularly rails against the mainstream media, as though "mainstream" is defined not by the size and prominence of the stream but, somehow, by the water that flows within it. Happily for the network, it's an incongruity that seems to leave viewers unbothered.
But it can lead to some weird situations. Such as the fact that two-thirds of fans of the most-watched media network in the country also think that members of the media are enemies of America.
Suffolk University polled people about their response to President Trump's tweet tossing the "fake news" media into a basket of anti-Americanism.
For the most part, people thought that the designation of media outlets as being the "enemy of the American people" was unfair. Only a third of respondents said they agreed with Trump. But Suffolk also asks the people it polls what news outlet they trust the most, allowing us an interesting cross-tabulation. Those who trust every single network except Fox News were more likely to say they disagreed than agreed, by a 22 to 72 percent margin overall. Two-thirds of fans of Fox, though? Well …
(Many of the outlets listed were identified as most-trusted by relatively few people, as you'll see below. That gives the responses a higher margin of error.)
Fox's dominance among news outlets is manifest when we scale those bars to the number of people who listed each outlet as his or her most trusted.
That's why the percentage who say they agree with Trump is as high as it is.
Let's not lose sight of how incongruous this is, though! American people who trust one particular media outlet are much more likely to say that the media in general is the enemy of the American people. It's a little bit because Fox News fans see Fox News as distinct from the rest of the media, certainly, though Suffolk's question — "President Trump has said journalists and the media are the enemy of the American people. Do you agree or disagree?" — didn't distinguish between "mainstream" and "Fox" media outlets. But mostly it's because Fox News viewers are disposed to agree with Trump no matter what he says. This is partisanship, not media criticism. Fox News is on Team Trump, in the eyes of its viewers, not Team Media — despite it literally being media.
The reasons that Fox News viewers identify it as more aligned with Trump than the rest of the media can be left to the reader's imagination.