The Post’s Dave Weigel tuned in to Fox News’s Tuesday night broadcasting to get a sense for what issues were driving the President-Trump-friendly network.
At 8 p.m., the lead was James O’Keefe’s revelation that one employee of CNN disparaged the network’s focus on Russia. At 9, it was about something Obama said last October. At 10, the O’Keefe video again. That middle program spent nine minutes on the Senate’s bill that would overhaul Obamacare.
It’s not new to report that there’s a lot of overlap between the Fox News audience and Republicans. Weigel’s point, more broadly, was that the network’s coverage of the Senate’s effort to accomplish one of the party’s most regularly cited policy goals was … modest.
On Thursday, Suffolk University released detailed numbers from a poll it conducted with USA Today, exploring, among other things, how views of political issues overlap with public confidence in various media outlets.
In this poll, 60 percent of Republicans identified Fox News as the outlet in which they had the most confidence. Every other network combined for 23 percent. By contrast, only 4 percent of Democrats cited Fox as their most trusted. (Most trusted among Democrats was CNN, at 20 percent.)
On issue after issue, those who most trusted Fox News held positions that were much more favorable to the president and his party than survey respondents overall.
For example, consider Trump’s job approval. More than half of the population overall (yellow bar below) disapproves of Trump’s performance. Among those who trust Fox (red bar), 9 in 10 approved. Nearly three-quarters of that group think America is headed in the right direction; overall, half think we’re on the wrong track.
Now, remember: The Fox fans are included in those overall numbers. This isn’t Fox vs. non-Fox, which would necessarily show a wider margin.
Both Trump and Vice President Pence are viewed positively by more than three-quarters of Fox News viewers. Overall, they’re viewed more unfavorably than favorably.
Those who trust Fox News the most are much more likely to view the GOP positively, and much more likely to view the Democratic Party negatively. Although overall the poll numbers for the parties and the media are about the same, net negative, the view of the media from Fox News fans is remarkably different, with more than 8 in 10 viewing the media unfavorably.
On specific issues, Trump is viewed positively by less than half the country overall — but very favorably by those who most trust Fox News.
To the point Weigel was raising: Fox News viewers on net approve of Trump’s handling of health care and support the Senate bill. Notice, though, that they are also less likely to have an opinion on the bill than Americans overall.
Fox News viewers are much more likely to consider the question of Russian meddling in the 2016 election as being not very or not at all serious; more than half hold those positions. A full 85 percent of them also agree with the president that the investigation into meddling is a witch hunt.
Overall, Americans blame the White House and both parties in Congress about evenly for gridlock on new legislation. But not those who trust Fox News the most. A large majority of that group blames congressional Democrats for legislation being held up — despite the fact that Republicans hold majorities in both chambers. They also blame the Trump administration less than anyone else.
Half also say that they trust Trump to protect their interests over Republicans on Capitol Hill. Overall, Americans are most likely to say that they have confidence in congressional Democrats.
What isn’t clear from these numbers is which way the arrow points. Are those who trust Fox News over other outlets having their views of politics shaped by what they watch on the network? Or does Fox’s coverage get tailored to the political sensibilities of those that are watching? The health-care bill question offers some hint of an answer: Not having an opinion suggests a lack of exposure to the issue, which suggests that coverage is driving opinion.
At least on that subject.