The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Study: Liberals blasé about MSNBC; conservatives crazy about Fox News

(Pew Research Center)

In a big study on political polarization, the Pew Research Journalism Project just released some data that help to contextualize the considerable ratings difficulties of MSNBC and the way in which Fox News trounces the network month in and month out.

MSNBC is the liberal cable-news outlet; Fox News is the conservative cable-news outlet. As the chart above shows, liberal-thinking people do not reward MSNBC for advancing their views on air; conservative-thinking people highly reward Fox News for advancing their views on air. In the words of the Pew study: “When it comes to choosing a media source for political news, conservatives orient strongly around Fox News. Nearly half of consistent conservatives (47%) name it as their main source for government and political news, as do almost a third (31%) of those with mostly conservative views. No other sources come close.”

What’s the main news outlet for liberals? CNN, which strives to be a neutral arbiter of the day’s news (though many scoff at this claim). Whereas 47 percent of consistently conservative respondents cited Fox News as their main source of news on government and politics, only 12 percent of consistently liberal respondents cited MSNBC. And here’s a downer for morale at the “Lean Forward” network: As many moderately liberal respondents reported relying on FOX NEWS! as reported relying on MSNBC.

Data corroborating these observations are beginning to mushroom. A Brookings Institution study this year found that there was simply “no dominant trusted news source among Democrats or liberals,” and MSNBC trailed woefully behind other options among these groups. Pew itself, in a June release on polarization, reported that a towering 46 percent of consistently liberal respondents held no opinion of MSNBC, as opposed to just 20 percent of consistently conservative respondents who held no opinion of Fox News.

Here’s a possible key to understanding this dynamic: Liberals, the study finds, use more news sources than conservatives: