The most trusted name in news is ... Fox?

It depends on how one measures trust, but Fox News wins in at least one definition provided by Quinnipiac in their latest polling. When ranked head-t0-head in a single question — notably asked after individual trust questions in this survey — Fox News wins by a significant margin against other national television news outlets, 29/22 over CNN and with NBC and ABC tied for a distant third at 10%. On the individual trust questions, though, the results become more nuanced:

When asked, “Do you trust the journalistic coverage provided by FOX News,” 20 percent of U.S. voters say “a great deal” and 35 percent say “somewhat.” Scores for other networks are:

  • NBC News – 14 percent “a great deal” and 46 percent “somewhat;”
  • ABC News – 14 percent “a great deal” and 50 percent “somewhat;”
  • CBS News – 14 percent “a great deal” and 50 percent “somewhat;”
  • MSNBC – 11 percent “a great deal” and 41 percent “somewhat;”
  • CNN – 18 percent “a great deal” and 43 percent “somewhat.”

The big winner is local television news, trusted by 19 percent of voters “a great deal” and by 52 percent “somewhat.”

Again, Fox wins when comparing the outlets that get “a great deal of trust,” although they’re only one point ahead of local news. When combined with “somewhat,” though, local news prevails with 71%, followed by 64% for ABC and CBS. Fox finishes fourth at 61%, just a skosh ahead of NBC and well ahead of MSNBC’s 52%.

The demos on the direct comparison are interesting indeed. To no one’s surprise, Fox is easily the most trusted name in news among Republicans, 58% to CNN’s distant second at 13%. Democrats split significantly among the rest, with a 32% plurality choosing CNN, but NBC, CBS, and MSNBC all scoring double digits. More surprisingly, Fox wins a narrow plurality of independents (25/22 over CNN), a wide plurality among men (34/18 over CNN), and a tie among women with CNN at 25%.

That tends to undermine the common complaint that Fox is a right-wing outlet only catering to the extremes. Even the individual trust questions show that trust in Fox News is at least on the same scale as it is for other national outlets. The consistently high ratings for Fox News Channel’s prime-time lineup occasionally gets explained away as the result of having one outlet on the right and fragmentation of the rest of the market, but trust seems pretty well distributed to Fox News among all demos except for Democrats. Even in the age demos, Fox scored a second place among 18-34YOs (21% to CNN’s 33%), and first place in the other two by statistically significant margins.

Finally, Quinnipiac addresses the latest argument against trust in Fox, the alleged embellishments from Bill O’Reilly on his reportorial experiences. O’Reilly is a commentator, not a reporter for Fox and not a news anchor either, but remains their top draw for prime time. Less than a quarter of those surveyed think he should be punished, with an equal number saying he shouldn’t, and 51% who don’t care enough to have heard about the controversy. More than half of the independents who have heard about O’Reilly’s controversy shrug it off too. If progressives hope to dent trust in Fox by attacking O’Reilly, they’re going to be very disappointed.

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