Fox News, the influential cable network launched by Rupert Murdoch in 1996, holds a unique place in the American media landscape, particularly for those on the ideological right. While Democrats in the United States turn to and place their trust in a variety of media outlets for political news, no other source comes close to matching the appeal of Fox News for Republicans.
Below are five facts about Fox News and how Americans feel about it. All findings are based on recent surveys from Pew Research Center’s Election News Pathways project, which focuses on what Americans hear, perceive and know about the 2020 presidential election and how these attitudes relate to how and where they get news. (You can use this interactive tool to explore the data from these surveys yourself.)
How we did this
1Around four-in-ten Americans trust Fox News. Nearly the same share distrust it. Among all U.S. adults, 43% say they trust Fox News for political and election news – similar to the shares who say they trust CBS News (45%) and PBS (42%), according to a November 2019 survey. At the same time, 40% of adults say they distrust Fox News – the highest share out of the 30 media outlets asked about in the survey, ahead of CNN (32%) and the Rush Limbaugh radio show (29%).
The vast majority of adults (94%) have heard of Fox News. And as of last November, 39% said they had gotten political news there in the past week – tied with CNN among the outlets asked about.
2Republicans trust Fox News more than any other outlet. Democrats distrust it more than any other outlet. Around two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (65%) say they trust Fox News for political and election news. No more than a third of Republicans say they trust any of the other news organizations asked about in the survey, including network sources such as ABC News (33%), CBS News (30%) and NBC News (30%). Conservative Republicans are especially likely to say they trust Fox News: Three-quarters say this, compared with around half of moderate or liberal Republicans (51%).
As of November, six-in-ten Republicans said they had gotten political news from Fox News within the past week. This, too, was far higher than the share of Republicans who said they had recently gotten political news from other sources.
Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 61% say they distrust Fox News for political news. That’s considerably higher than the shares of Democrats who distrust other outlets, including the Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity radio shows (43% and 38%, respectively) and Breitbart News (36%) – though this also reflects the fact that Fox News is more well-known to the public than these other outlets. Liberal Democrats are far more likely than conservative or moderate Democrats to say they distrust Fox news (77% vs. 48%).
While most Democrats distrust Fox News, that doesn’t mean they universally tune it out. Around a quarter of Democrats (23%), including 29% of conservative or moderate Democrats and 15% of liberals, said in November that they had gotten political news from Fox News in the past week.
3On an ideological scale, the average Fox News consumer is to the right of the average U.S. adult, but not as far to the right as the audiences of some other outlets. As part of the November survey, the Center grouped the audiences of 30 news outlets on a scale based on the self-described ideology and partisanship of those who said they had gotten political news from each outlet in the past week. (You can read more about this classification system in this Q&A.) Based on this scale, the average audience member for Fox News is more likely than the average U.S. adult to be conservative and Republican. But the average audiences for four other outlets in the study – the Daily Caller, Breitbart News, and the Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh radio shows – are to the right of the average Fox News viewer.
4People who cite Fox News as their main source of political news are older and more likely to be white than U.S. adults overall. Americans ages 65 and older account for around four-in-ten of those who say their main source is Fox News (37%), compared with 21% of all adults, according to the November survey. And around nine-in-ten who turn to Fox News (87%) identify their race and ethnicity as non-Hispanic white, compared with 65% of all adults.
5Those who name Fox News as their main source of political news stand out in their views on key issues and people, including President Donald Trump. Fox News consumers tend to have an especially positive view of the president, which may not be a surprise given that 93% of those who name the network as their main source of political news identify as Republican or lean to the party.
One striking example is in perceptions of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. In a March 2020 survey, 63% of those whose main source of political and election news is Fox News said Trump is doing an excellent job responding to the outbreak. No more than a quarter of those who cited other news outlets as their main source of political news said this. Fox News regulars were considerably more likely than Republicans overall to describe Trump’s handling of the outbreak as excellent (63% vs. 47%).
In the November 2019 survey, 71% of those who cited Fox News as their main source of political news gave Trump a very warm rating on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100, where 0 represents the coldest, most negative rating and 100 represents the warmest, most positive. Among all U.S. adults, just a quarter gave Trump a very warm rating (between 76 and 100).
Fox News viewers also had a notably negative view of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. More than eight-in-ten of those who named Fox News as their main source of political news (85%) gave Pelosi a very cold rating on the thermometer – between 0 and 24. That was more than double the share of all U.S. adults who gave Pelosi a very cold rating (41%).
Note: For facts about Fox News in 2014, see this earlier post by Jesse Holcomb, a former associate director of research.