The good news in a new Washington Post Fact Checker poll is that most Americans don’t believe the various untrue claims that President Trump makes. Nearly two-thirds of respondents, for example, know that Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, more than four times the percentage which said Russia didn’t.
Trump, of course, has consistently tried to muddy the water on that issue and, unsurprisingly, those who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance are about as likely to believe Russia didn’t interfere than it did. Even Republicans overall, by a 2-to-1 margin, accept that Russia tried to interfere.
There’s another group worth considering in this context: Those who identify Fox News as one of their main news sources. Compared with those who identify other cable news networks as a primary news source or those who identify newspapers or NPR in the same way, Fox News watchers are much more likely to accept Trump’s view of Russian interference.
In general, this isn’t a big surprise. There’s overlap between Fox News and Republicans that’s well-established. In our poll, more than half of Republicans identified the network as one of their top two sources of political news. Most Republicans and Democrats said that cable news in general (meaning Fox, MSNBC or CNN) was a top source of political news; 40 percent of Democrats identified CNN in that way.
If we look at this another way — the percentage of those who identify a network as one of the two primary sources of political news who belong to each party — that density of Republicans among Fox New viewers jumps out. But CNN, MSNBC and NPR all had higher densities of Democrats identifying them as a top source of political news.
Our polling team aggregated the overall responses to false claims made by Trump. Those who identified Fox News as one of their top two sources of political news were much more likely to believe false claims from Trump in general than those who don’t identify Fox News as a top source of news.
In fact, the gap between those who do and don’t view Fox News as a main source of news was the only statistically significant gap where fans were more likely to believe Trump.
But then the flip side of the coin: Those who see CNN or MSNBC as main sources of political news were more likely to believe untrue claims made by Democrats than those who don’t see those networks as main sources of news. (Again, these were the only significant gaps on this question, aside from those who call cable news a top source.)
As is always the case in situations such as this, it’s tricky to parse how causation works. Are people who are more predisposed to watch Fox News more likely to also believe Trump’s falsehoods? Or are those who are more likely to believe untrue claims made by Democrats more likely to watch CNN? It’s hard to say.
What the data reinforces, though, is that there exist political media bubbles in which Americans operate.
And of course, that everyone should read newspapers.
Scott Clement contributed to this report.