As the United States confronts a pandemic with little precedent, we are being guided by a president with a very well-documented problem with basic facts. President Trump has now made more than 18,000 false or misleading claims during his three-plus years in the White House, and his coronavirus commentary has followed suit. In a tweetstorm this weekend, for instance, Trump lodged at least eight easily disproved claims.

Because of this, one of his worst polling numbers has long been honesty and trustworthiness, and a recent poll is one of his worst on that measure. Just 31 percent in a new USA Today/Suffolk University survey said Trump is honest and trustworthy, while 64 percent disagreed. That’s a 2-to-1 ratio against the president’s character.

But that still leaves 3 in 10 Americans who believe the president is honest and trustworthy, despite all the fact-checking and patently false claims.

So who are those 3 in 10 Americans? According to the same survey, they are Fox News fans — and very few others.

Suffolk regularly asks people what their most trusted news source is, which provides a helpful, regular window into the differences between Fox News and non-Fox News viewers. It’s perhaps one of the most significant demographic splits in American politics right now, and the “honest and trustworthy” question bears out why.

According to the Suffolk poll, of the 31 percent of Americans who believe Trump is honest and trustworthy, nearly two-thirds of them say Fox is their favorite news source. Among Fox-first viewers — who comprise about 25 percent of Americans in the survey — 78 percent say Trump is honest and trustworthy, while just 15 percent disagree.

The imbalance is even more striking when you look at people who don’t trust Fox News the most. Among the three-fourths of the population who don’t list Fox as their No. 1 news source, just 15 percent say Trump is honest and trustworthy, while nearly 80 percent say he is not.

Non-Fox-first viewers rate Trump consistently higher among other personality traits. Among them:

  • 29 percent say he’s a strong leader.
  • 23 percent say he “cares about people like me.”
  • 37 percent say he knows how to get things done.
  • 40 percent say he stands up for U.S. interests.
  • 30 percent say he can work with foreign leaders.

So it’s not like these people are overwhelmingly dead set against Trump. Many of them see positives in his character, but very few of them believe honesty is among them.

The question from there is how much this is cause and how much is effect. Fox News certainly covers Trump in a much different way than most any other outlet, with its prime-time opinion hosts often fawning over his alleged achievements and playing down or outright ignoring his falsehoods. Even on the more straight-news side, the coverage is consistently less critical of Trump and declines to dwell so much on when he gets things blatantly wrong.

That doesn’t mean certain reporters and hosts haven’t been critical. But whatever the right balance might be, it’s indisputable that the news Fox viewers are consuming about Trump bears little resemblance to the news that others are.

But are the 25 percent of people who list Fox as their favorite regularly tuning in to Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham or even daytime programming? Undoubtedly not. Although Fox ranks as the most-watched cable news outlet, even its high ratings don’t indicate that a quarter of Americans are watching regularly. It’s plausible that many people who don’t watch Fox much or at all but like Trump will logically associate him with the channel and, when prompted, volunteer Fox as their most trusted news source.

So maybe this is as much or more about people who already like Trump as it is about these people consuming less-critical coverage and not recognizing or caring about Trump’s myriad falsehoods.

But either way, the correlation between Fox News viewership and the few Americans who continue to say the president is honest and trustworthy is remarkable — especially when compared with other traits.