Poll: Those who most trust CNN are more likely to support Dems on the generic ballot than those who most trust MSNBC

A little something noticed by a Twitter pal in the new Suffolk data that made me laugh. Strangely, fans of America’s down-the-middle non-ideological cable news network seem to be (slightly) more pro-Democratic than fans of the loud-and-proud left-wing alternative.

The second line in each row represents the share of each group that chose that option. So it’s 84/10 on the generic ballot between Democrats and Republicans among those who trust MSNBC the most — versus 87/3 among those who trust CNN the most. 87/3! You might not see an 87/3 Democratic tilt even on the average college faculty.

But then, this is the audience CNN has sought, no? Between the anchors sermonizing about Trump morning, noon, and night and “special events” like that community stomp of gun-rights supporters after the Parkland shooting, there’s no other explanation.

That isn’t the only metric on which those who trust CNN the most of the news networks are about as left-wing as, or more left-wing than, those who prefer MSNBC. The breakdown when people were asked how Kavanaugh’s confirmation might affect their midterm vote:

Among MSNBC fans the split is 7/64, among CNN fans it’s 1/67. Just one percent of people who prefer CNN to other news outlets watched the Kavanaugh saga play out and found themselves more inclined to support Republicans than Democrats. Again: These are college-faculty numbers.

One more. The question this time: Do you think the House of Representatives should seriously consider impeaching Trump?

MSNBCers split 67/24 in favor, CNNers split 69/25. Practically no difference. The numbers on Trump among both groups are also nearly identical: When asked whether they view POTUS favorably or unfavorably, MSNBCers split 4/94 while CNNers divide 6/91.

So, case closed: CNN is the true left-wing network. The data proves it. Right? Well … maybe not. There are two big footnotes here. One is that the sample sizes of each network fan base are reeeeeeally small, just 119 people among the “most trusts CNN” group and 100 among the “most trusts MSNBC” group. Small sample sizes mean big margins of error — maybe upwards of 10 points in this case. So it could be that in reality MSNBCers are 10 points or so more likely to support Democrats and oppose Trump than CNNers are. (The opposite could also be true. Imagine that!) The data here is better understood as an interesting jumping-off point for a follow-up survey: Poll American TV news viewers and take a big sample to see how CNN, MSNBC, and Fox viewers split. At the very least, though, we can pretty safely say that MSNBC fans and CNN fans are similarly pro-Democrat, even if the former outnumber the latter.

The other footnote is that the data above measures opinion among people who say that a particular network is their most trusted source, not among that network’s total viewers. It may be true (and almost certainly is) that the total CNN viewership is more evenly divided than the hardcore group of CNN fans that name it as their most trusted outlet. After all, most right-wingers who watch CNN from time to time are probably naming Fox as their most trusted source whereas centrists may tune in to CNN during the day but still prefer the nightly network news broadcasts of ABC, CBS, or NBC as their most trusted source. The poll here is only measuring superfans of each network, not their average viewers. Although that doesn’t make the results less interesting: Why would an apparently solidly left-wing group like CNN superfans trust that network more than they do MSNBC? What is CNN giving them that bombthrowers like Rachel Maddow aren’t?

It may be that CNN retains enough of its patina of being “down the middle” that liberals who loath Fox and feel a tad uneasy about MSNBC’s transformation into a left-wing answer to it find themselves more comfortable there. CNN is still perceived by many as a “hard news” network, more interested in reporting than commentary. Its ratings invariably soar whenever there’s big breaking news as viewers turn to it for coverage. Some lefties may trust it more than MSNBC for that reason alone. It may also be that some Americans who lean fairly solidly Democratic like to imagine that they’re “moderates” for whom the two parties have each gotten a bit too extreme. If that notion is important to their political identity then they might prefer CNN to MSNBC. After all, only hardcore liberals would want to watch avowed liberal anchors rant about Trump; “moderates” prefer to watch liberal anchors who downplay their own liberalism do it.