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An interesting but flawed comparison of Fox News Channel and MSNBC

by | Jun 13, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

PewpolarizationreHere’s a quickie post to end the week. The headline on Dylan Byers Blog for POLITICO is “Why MSNBC is in trouble.” It’s reflections on an extract from a Pew Research Center report issued Thursday on “Political Polarization and American Life” and, more specifically, “Section 3: Political Polarization and Personal Life.”

In the end Byers overall point is straightforward, as the headline suggests. But first, some preliminaries, to put the conclusion in context.

The comparison is between MSNBC and Fox News and specifically how “consistent liberals” and “consistent conservatives” feel about “their” cable news station and about the other.

The interesting backdrop is, according to Pew, that “Notably, both of these news channels are viewed more favorably than unfavorably in the public at large, reflecting the fact that both receive generally favorable [45% favorable to 17% unfavorable for Fox; 38% favorable to 13% unfavorable for MSNBC], or at least neutral marks from people with mixed ideological views [38% Fox, 48% MSNBC].

But, according to Byers, the reason MSMNC is in trouble is that “consistent liberals” don’t like MSNBC anywhere near as much as “consistent conservatives” like Fox. He writes

While nearly half (45%) of consistent liberals view MSNBC favorably, that’s not much better than how MSNBC rates among those with mixed ideological views (38%). Nearly half of consistent liberals offer no opinion of MSNBC. By contrast, the vast majority of consistent conservatives offer an opinion of Fox News, with 74% favorable and just 5% unfavorable.

That really is a staggering difference: 74% to 45%–advantage Fox News.

Byers explanation is MSNBC may potentially have a similar level of support but that unlike Fox News, its programming isn’t as yet “compelling.” In other words, “people don’t simply watch opinion channels because the programming matches.”

Of course, this overlooks other huge dissimilarities. Fox News has a huge advantage in audience size and, according to a recent poll by Robert Morris University, is also considered the most honest network: 18.4% of respondents said it was the most trustworthy. MSNBC was the least-trusted network, at 4.4%.

In addition, Byers makes the same mistake most analyses do. Some of the Fox News Channel anchors are considered “conservatives” but some aren’t. Some (actually most) are seen as playing it down the middle. And its straight news coverage is straight. None of that can be said about MSNBC.

Food for thought as we end the week. Again, Happy Father’s Day.

Categories: Polling
Tags: Polling