There has been a lot of buzz about a poll released yesterday by the crew over at PPP (PDF File). And the headlines all hit on a similar theme:
Poll: Fox most trusted name in news -- Politico
Poll: Fox most-trusted news outlet -- Boston Herald
New Poll: Majority of Americans Trust Fox -- WTVD-TV (Raleigh)
There's only one small problem. A cursory look inside the numbers reveals that, for a strong majority of Americans, the exact opposite is true. Indeed, the poll tells us quite a different story: for more than three-fifths of Americans, Fox News is the least trusted media outlet of them all.
And it's not even close.
Fox's pole position on the PPP poll rests solely on one thing: the fact that conservatives are evidently petrified at the thought of having their worldview challenged in any way, shape or form. Therefore, they trust Fox. And only Fox.
Look at the very telling way in which conservatives responded on the issue of trust and American media outlets:
Conservative Trust Of Media Outlets (Yes/No)--PPP Poll 1/26/10
FOX NEWS: 75/13
ABC NEWS: 16/67
NBC NEWS: 15/66
CBS NEWS: 14/68
Contrast those results with those among liberal voters, who seem to lack the near-universal faith in the infallibility of any media outlet that conservatives clearly have for the Fox News brand:
Liberal Trust of Media Outlets (Yes/No)--PPP Poll 1/26/10
NBC NEWS: 64/22
CBS NEWS: 56/29
ABC NEWS: 50/31
FOX NEWS: 26/66
Generally speaking, liberals have more trust than mistrust of media outlets, but nowhere near the lopsided fealty that we see from conservatives. They also, not surprisingly, find Fox News to be the least trusted news source, and by a landslide.
But what about those prized moderates? How do they perceive the major media outlets? The results would certainly appear to fly in the face of the whole "Fox is the most trusted name in news" meme:
Moderate Trust of Media Outlets (Yes/No)--PPP Poll 1/26/10
NBC NEWS: 44/33
CBS NEWS: 41/33
ABC NEWS: 39/34
FOX NEWS: 33/48
Let's be clear: with 61% of Americans (liberals made up 14% of the poll, and moderates made up 47%), Fox News is the least trusted name in news. And they are the least trusted outlet by a decisive margin.
This confirms something that bloggers on the left have been arguing for years. The success of Fox News is not due to their superior product, nor is it the result of providing a valuable service to a center-right nation.
It stems exclusively from the fact that liberals and moderates are willing to avail themselves of the entire array of media offerings available to them, while conservatives are so convinced of their own victimhood on all matters media-related that they will pledge unwavering allegiance to a friendly media outlet.
It was a point underscored by PPP's own Tom Jensen in his analysis of their poll:
These numbers suggest quite a shift in what Americans want from their news. A generation ago Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the country because of his neutrality. Now people trust Fox the most precisely because of its lack of neutrality. It says a lot about where journalism is headed.
Anyone seeking to explain the popularity of Fox News, Rush, and Beck, or conversely seeking to explain why liberal alternatives like Air America are predestined to struggle, now have some very compelling data with which to make their case.