- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2006

News audiences continue to be divided by ideology and political party, according to a Pew Research Center survey of the nation’s news preferences.

Conservative Republicans are less likely than any other demographic group to favor news from a neutral source, the survey found. Sixty-eight percent of the general public said they preferred news from a source with no particular point of view, compared with 56 percent among conservative Republicans and 71 percent among liberal Democrats.

Tastes are entrenched. Seventy-eight percent of conservative respondents regularly listen to radio host Rush Limbaugh; the figure was 3 percent among liberals. Almost two-thirds of conservatives favored Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, compared with 10 percent of liberals. Fox News drew 49 percent of conservatives and 14 percent of liberals. Gospel hours did not much resonate with liberals either: Fifty-five percent of conservatives tuned in to religious radio, compared with 15 percent of liberals.

“News audiences for cable television news became more polarized along partisan and ideological lines between 2002 and 2004. That polarization remains but has not increased since 2004,” the poll said.

Republicans remain loyal to Fox News: 34 percent are regular viewers, compared with 20 percent of Democrats. Twenty-eight percent of Democrats are regular CNN viewers, compared with 19 percent of Republicans, whose interest in CNN has dropped nine percentage points in the past four years, the poll found.

“The gap between Republicans and Democrats in regular viewership of nightly network news on ABC, CBS or NBC is now 14 [percentage] points, nearly three times as it was in 2004,” the Pew report said. “Currently, 38 percent of Democrats watch, compared with 24 percent of Republicans.”

Republican viewership of the big three network news broadcasts has dropped 11 percentage points in the past two years. Trust in most other news sources also appears to be eroding.

“Republicans express less confidence than Democrats in the credibility of nearly every major news outlet, with the exception of the Fox News Channel,” the survey said.

Although 26 percent of Democrats trusted CBS News, the figure was 15 percent among Republicans. Thirty-two percent of Democrats believe what they hear on National Public Radio, compared with 13 percent of Republicans. Less than a quarter of Democrats, however, trust the New York Times — down from 31 percent in 2004. The figure was 16 percent among Republicans.

Interest in foreign news has waned. Two years ago, 52 percent of the public followed events overseas; the figure now stands at 39 percent. Among Republicans, the figures were 56 percent and 36 percent, respectively; among Democrats, 52 percent and 42 percent. Meanwhile, 4 percent of the nation regularly reads Web logs.

The poll of 4,705 adults was released yesterday and conducted April 27 to May 2 and June 14 to 19. It has a margin of error of three percentage points.

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