Most Americans perceive partiality in the news media and more believe Fox News is the most trusted for accurate reporting among the major television news organizations, according to a recent poll by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute.
The poll surveyed 1,004 people nationwide with proportional contributions from each state via an online survey held May 6-13. Of those surveyed, 31.8 percent identified themselves as Democrats and 25.7 percent as Republicans.
When asked which television news stations they considered biased, 37.1 percent said MSNBC and 36.6 percent said CNN. Fox News was first with 47.8 percent.
However, Fox News was also considered the most honest network: 18.4 percent of respondents said it was the most trustworthy. MSNBC was the least-trusted network, clocking in at 4.4 percent, and CNN was declared trustworthy by 14.1 percent of respondents.
The public’s perception of Fox News’ bias might be reason for some to watch the channel.
“I don’t think it’s any question that the perception of bias plays a role in why people do or don’t watch certain networks over others,” said Anthony Moretti, associate professor of communications at RMU, who helped conduct the poll.
Moretti acknowledged that current events covered in the news likely have a role in how the public perceives a news station’s bias.
He said Americans' inclination to trust Fox News could be correlated to Republican prospects in November's elections.
A separate survey from 2013 performed by the Pew Research Center came to similar conclusions, Moretti said.
The nonpartisan think tank gathered three days worth of television reporting from MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News from 2012 to compare the time spent by each station on both fact-based reporting and opinions.
According to Pew’s survey, MSNBC spent 15 percent of that time reporting facts and the other 85 percent airing opinions and commentary.
CNN was the only station during that time to report more facts (54 percent) than opinions (46 percent), according to Pew. Fox News reported factually 45 percent of that time.
“The numbers are reasonably similar and that’s a good sign,” Moretti said about the polls’ results.
The three stations dominate nationally in the television news market, although Fox News has drawn an audience larger than that of both MSNBC and CNN combined for years, according to the Pew Research Center.
Both surveys indicate a high level of bias at MSNBC.
“The finger of blame, at first, is probably pointed at Fox,” Moretti said, “And I don’t know if that’s necessarily fair.”
RMU’s poll suggests many Americans have grown tired of pointing fingers and picking sides: 35.6 percent of those polled said they have stopped consuming news due to media bias.
Most consumers said they follow news organizations for objective reporting rather than like-minded viewpoints.
To regain the trust of those estranged viewers news stations need to shift the focus from sensationalizing news and chasing ratings to seeking stories with substance, Moretti said.
“The fear is that [people] aren’t hearing what they need to know but what [news organizations] want to tell them,” Moretti said.