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Fox News Effect?

There's a new Pew Research poll out today on media users and their attitudes, entitled "Internet News Audience Highly Critical of News Organizations." And the mainstream media is allowing that title to steer a lot of the media coverage of the study. Editor and Publisher followed Pew's bread crumbs by writing it up this way:
A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that more than half of Americans say U.S. news organizations are politically biased, inaccurate, and don't care about the people they report on.

Respondents who use the Internet as their main source of news -- which is roughly one quarter of all Americans -- were even harsher with their criticism, the poll reported.

More than two-thirds of the Web users said they felt that news organizations don't care about the people they report on; 59 percent said their reporting was inaccurate; and 64 percent they were politically biased.

But as is so often the case with studies of "psychographics" and "attitudes," there is more meaty stuff in here than just the normal Paranoid Internet User meme/stereotype that is prevalent in the mainstream media. If you go to the actual study and scroll down a tad – past the falling favorability and gender breakdowns – you'll get to a subhead that reads "Fox Viewers More Critical." Apparently, with all the hubbub surrounding those cynical web people, this pushed the profile of Fox News viewers far lower into the text. The summary reads:
[T]hose who cite the Fox News Channel as their primary source of news stand out among the TV news audience for their negative evaluations of news organizations' practices. Fully 63% of Americans who count Fox as their main news source say news stories are often inaccurate – a view held by fewer than half of those who cite CNN (46%) or network news (41%) as their main source.

Similarly, Fox viewers are far more likely to say the press is too critical of America (52% vs. 36% of CNN viewers and 29% of network news viewers). And the Fox News Channel audience gives starkly lower ratings to network news programs and national newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post…

For example, fully 71% of Fox News Republicans hold an unfavorable opinion of major national newspapers, compared with 52% of Republicans who use other sources, and 33% of those who are not Republicans.

I wondered if it was just me, the former media data head, who found this intriguing. So I contacted Carroll Doherty over at Pew, and I asked him about this Fox News effect.

"Given the fact that we've shown that Fox News viewers tend to be conservative and Republican, we weren't too surprised at the initial finding," he said. "But the difference in the fact that Fox viewers that are Republican are more critical than Republicans with other media habits, that was a surprise there."

Whether it's a view of the world that Fox News insinuates into its coverage and the minds of its viewers, or merely that Fox News appeals to souls that have already written off the mainstream news organizations – there's the chicken-or-egg rub – it is clear that there is something in the air at Fox News. It's profitable, to be sure – but maybe cynicism sells just as much as sex?

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