NEW YORK (AP) – The nation’s political divide is increasingly being reflected in where Americans get their news: Republicans like Fox News Channel and Democrats prefer CNN.

Fox’s audience has grown explosively since 2000, with most of those gains coming among viewers who describe themselves as Republican or conservative, according to a study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

More than half of Fox’s viewers describe themselves as conservative, Pew said.

ABC, CBS and NBC evening news viewers are slightly more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, according to the survey. Pew found little partisan tilt is the audience for MSNBC, the struggling third cable news network.

Four years ago, the same percentage of Democrats (18 percent) as Republicans told Pew they watched Fox regularly. This year, 35 percent of Republicans said they watched Fox regularly and 21 percent said they watched CNN.

Meanwhile, 28 percent of Democrats described themselves as regular CNN viewers, and 19 percent of Republicans, Pew said. As recently as 1996 – the year Fox News Channel came on the air – CNN’s audience was more Republican than Democratic.

“To a certain extent, the media has reaped what it has sown,” said Andrew Kohut, the Pew center’s director. “The emergence of the shout show as a significant piece on all of the cable networks … has made the news seem more partisan and Republicans increasingly look at the news one way and Democrats the other.”

Fox’s “fair and balanced” slogan has helped convince many Republicans that other news organizations tilt left, Kohut said. Radio talk shows play a part; Kohut said a growing lack of faith in the media is a trend that dates back to the 1980s.

A Fox spokesman, Brian Lewis, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

A CNN spokeswoman, Christa Robinson, said she’s proud that CNN is considered a credible source by people of all ideologies. Even among Republicans, 26 percent of poll respondents say they believe all or most of what they hear on CNN, and 29 percent say the same for Fox.

Fox was the least-trusted news source among Democrats polled, Pew said.

Of Fox, Robinson said: “They grew their Republican audience. I’ll let you analyze what it indicates.”

While most Americans say they don’t care if the news they watch reflects their own policy viewpoints, 43 percent of conservatives said they prefer that. One-third of liberals and moderates want news that reflects their views, Pew said.

While Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly says he’s not necessarily conservative on many issues, his audience is.

The Pew survey found 72 percent of “The O’Reilly Factor” viewers described themselves as conservative, and 4 percent said they were liberal.

Meanwhile, 22 percent of PBS’ “NewsHour” viewers describe themselves as conservative, and 71 percent say they are moderate or liberal, Pew said.

Due largely to Fox, cable news continues to grow as a favored outlet for news while the broadcast networks’ ratings are flat. The Internet is also growing as a news source, and bringing in more older and minority computer users, too, Pew said.

Meanwhile, six in 10 Americans aged 65 and older say they read a newspaper on a typical day. Only 23 percent of people under age 30 read a paper regularly, Pew said.

Pew based its survey on interviews conducted with 3,000 adults between April 19 and May 12. The margin of error was plus or minus 2 percentage points.



On the Net:

http://www.people-press.org

AP-ES-06-08-04 1805EDT



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