- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

America’s appetite for hard news is intensifying, even as political leanings and skepticism among viewers grow more apparent, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center released yesterday.

Overall, 31 percent of Americans pay “high attention” to hard news — a genre which includes international issues, politics and business — up from 24 percent in 2000. Fifty-six percent pay “moderate” attention to hard news, compared to 63 percent four years ago.

“Political polarization is increasingly reflected in the public’s news-viewing habits,” stated the poll, which cited numerous differences of opinions among conservatives and liberals.

In the last two years, Republicans’ trust in broadcast and cable news has fallen across the board. In 2000, 27 percent said they believed “all or most” of the news on CBS; this year, it’s 15 percent. Another 33 percent trusted CNN four years ago; the figure has now fallen to 26 percent.

In contrast, 36 percent of Democrats trusted CBS News in 2000; the figure now stands at 34 percent. Another 48 percent trusted CNN in 2000; the figure is now 45 percent.

“Even C-SPAN, the nonprofit, public-affairs network has seen its ratings become more politicized,” the poll stated. It’s believed “all or most of the time” by 36 percent of Democrats, but only 22 percent of Republicans.

Fox News was the sole print or broadcast news outlet to see a gain in its credibility rating in the same period, up from 26 to 29 percent among the Republicans. Among Democrats, however, the rating fell from 27 to 24 percent.

In addition, 25 percent of regular cable viewers watched Fox News, followed by 22 percent who watched CNN and 11 percent who watched MSNBC.

The poll of 3,000 adults was conducted from April 19 to May 12.

Overall, it found that 38 percent of the news audience consider themselves moderate, 36 percent conservative and 18 percent liberal. Together, they had a tepid reaction to what they encountered in print and broadcast, growing “increasingly cynical towards the news media.”

Among the respondents, 53 percent said they did not trust the news, 48 percent felt editors and producers “are out of touch,” 44 percent are depressed by the news, 42 percent said they lacked the background to follow the news and 36 percent said they “were too busy to keep up” with it.

Meanwhile, specific news programs had specific ideological followings.

Among those who favor talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh, 77 percent said they are conservative and 7 percent liberal. The figures were 72 percent conservative and 4 percent liberal for Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” while “religious radio” had an audience which was 53 percent conservative and 12 percent liberal.

Liberals were not quite as adamant in their choices.

“Literary magazines” like the New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly had the strongest liberal following of any news source, read by 36 percent of the liberals and 19 percent of conservatives. National Public Radio followed, listened to by 30 percent of liberals — but 31 percent of conservatives.

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