For months, the early morning and evening programming at Fox News has been a steady stream of hyper-negative commentary on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the possibility that Russian actors colluded with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
It’s proved highly persuasive.
According to a new public-opinion survey by the progressive messaging group Navigator Research, self-identified Fox News watchers overwhelmingly oppose the Mueller investigation by a 73-23 percent margin.
The breakdown was not included in the group’s formal survey but was part of crosstab tabulations provided to The Daily Beast. And it underscores the immense power of media echo chambers in today’s increasingly tribal politics.
The survey found almost the near inverse when surveying self-identified viewers of CNN and MSNBC, who, combined, said they supported the Mueller probe by a 79-18 percent margin (officials couldn’t break the numbers down by specific network viewership without getting into a statistically insignificant sample size).
But the two camps were different in one key respect: Fox viewers were on an a proverbial island while CNN and MSNBC viewers were not. When surveying consumers of all other kinds of news except Fox—broadcast tv, cable, print, radio and online—Navigator Research found support for the probe at a 64-25 percent margin.
As a right-leaning outlet, Fox News has—among cable channels—been zealous in its cynicism of the special counsel’s efforts, with primetime hosts often portraying the investigation of Trump as an sinister, perhaps lawless, effort to undermine his presidency. There are notable exceptions (see: Smith, Shep). But there is a reason that the network is the primary place for the president and his aides to grant interviews when talking about Russia and other matters.
To a certain degree, correlation can be confused with causation in these numbers. The survey found that self-described Republicans generally oppose the investigation by a 74-19 percent margin. The survey also found that 42 percent of Republicans were likely to list Fox News as their primary source of news (a percentage higher than for any other outlet). In other words: partisan predisposition may matter more than what cable-news programming when determining if one supports the Mueller probe.
But there are also elements of data that suggest Fox News’ programming has had an impact on its viewers. For example, among those 19 percent of self-identified Republicans who support the Mueller probe, just 10 percent listed Fox News as a primary news source. Among the 74 percent who opposed the probe, 50 percent listed the cable channel as a primary news source.
So while there is a clear partisan breakdown of opinion with respect to Mueller, within that partisan split, other factors may very well be at play—one of which is media consumption habits.
Overall, Navigator Research found that voters want the Mueller probe to continue by a 20-point margin: 55-35 percent.