Fox News possesses an “outsized influence” on the American public, especially among religious viewers.
That was the conclusion of the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute in a reportreleased just after the 2020 presidential election. It noted that 15% of Americans cited Fox News as the most trusted source – around the same as NBC, ABC and CBS combined, and four percentage points above rival network CNN. The survey of more than 2,500 American adults also suggested that Fox News viewers trend religious, especially among Republicans watching the show. Just 5% of Republican viewers of the channel identified as being “religiously unaffiliated” – compared to 15% of Republicans who do not watch Fox News and 25% of the wider American public.
To further explore the relationship between different faiths and the TV news they associate with as part of my research on religion data, I analyzed the result of another survey, the Cooperative Election Survey.
The annual survey, which was fielded just before the November 2020 election, with the results released in March, polled a total of 61,000 Americans over a number of topics. One question was on their news consumption habits. It asked what television news networks respondents had watched in the prior 24 hours.
Some very interesting patterns emerged across religious traditions – and the nonreligious – and the type of media being consumed. For instance, of the the big three legacy news operations – ABC, CBS and NBC – there was no strong base of viewership in any tradition.
In most cases, about a third of people from each religious tradition said that they watched one of those legacy networks in the last 24 hours. PBS scored very low among every tradition. In most cases fewer than 15% of respondents reported watching PBS in the time frame.