How much do politically divided Americans distrust their television news sources? Let’s count the ways:
• A majority of conservatives trust Fox News, and only Fox News, among eight major outlets.
• Liberals trust every other outlet — including Comedy Central — more than Fox News.
• PBS is the sole TV news outlet not distrusted by a plurality of respondents — and even then, only 52 percent of them trust the network, which doesn’t exactly make Big Bird the new Walter Cronkite.
Such are some of the findings from an annual Public Policy Polling survey of the nation’s news preferences. Released Wednesday, the poll depicts a skeptical America split into partisan news-watching camps, red and blue state viewers peering warily at their screens.
“I think it says something about the state of TV news, which, let’s face it, does a lot of goofy stuff,” said Robert Thompson, a media scholar and director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “There is over-coverage of certain kinds of stories. There are things that get reported incorrectly. There have been lots of mistakes and problems, and these numbers reflect that.
“The other thing is the state of public attitudes. There’s a drumbeat of not trusting the mainstream media, especially in the digital universe. I’ve seen surveys that put journalists just about as low as lawyers in terms of despised professions. In some ways, it’s become a cultural cliche for people to say they simply do not trust big news operations.”
A Democratic-leaning firm based in Raleigh, N.C., that received high marks for the predictive accuracy of its 2012 election polls, PPP recently conducted a survey in which Congress proved less popular than both cockroaches and colonoscopies — but did manage to beat out North Korea and Lindsay Lohan.
The poll released Wednesday also found that:
• PBS was the only news source that more Americans trust (52 percent) than distrust (29 percent).
• Seventy percent of self-identified Republicans expressed trust in Fox News.
• Roughly two-thirds of those same Republican respondents expressed distrust in every other news outlet except PBS.
• A majority of self-identified Democrats expressed trust in every news outlet except Fox News and Comedy Central.
• Democrats were most trusting of PBS (72 percent), followed by NBC, MSNBC, CBS, CNN and ABC.
• More voters who self-identified as “very liberal” distrusted Fox News (66 percent) than Comedy Central (35 percent).