October 21, 2014

Where News Audiences Fit on the Political Spectrum

Where do Americans get their news about politics and government? And how does the media environment intersect with political polarization? A Pew Research Center study based on a representative online survey finds striking differences in news habits along the ideological spectrum.

Explore the data:

Where do Americans get their news about politics and government? And how does the media environment intersect with political polarization? A Pew Research Center study based on a representative online survey finds striking differences in news habits along the ideological spectrum.

Explore the data:

Consumers of Distrust

Audience compared to all Web respondents

Source: American Trends Panel (wave 1). Survey conducted March 19-April 29, 2014. Based on all Web respondents (representative of the 89% of Americans with internet access). Each graphic shows the ideological distribution of all respondents who got news about government and politics from the source over the course of a week. Sizes of each graphic reflect the relative sizes of their audiences, which can also be seen in the reference graphic on the top right of the page. (Overall N=2,901; sample sizes for consumers of each source available upon request.) Ideological consistency based on a scale of 10 political values questions.

Updated 10/21/14: Graphic updated to align visual representation of five segments of ideological spectrum with underlying data. All data labels and percentages are unchanged.

The table below shows the share of respondents who have heard of each of the 36 media sources in the study, as well as the ways in which name recognition varies depending on a person's ideological preferences. On average, those with consistently liberal political values have heard of more sources than those in other ideological groups.

Awareness of News Sources

% of respondents who have heard of each source

Source Overall Consistently liberal Mostly liberal Mixed Mostly conservative Consistently conservative
CNN 95% 97% 95% 93% 96% 94%
ABC News 94% 97% 93% 93% 96% 95%
NBC News 94% 98% 93% 92% 95% 94%
CBS News 93% 96% 93% 91% 95% 93%
Fox News 93% 94% 94% 90% 94% 96%
USA TODAY 90% 93% 89% 86% 92% 93%
MSNBC 89% 96% 88% 86% 92% 94%
PBS 88% 95% 90% 83% 90% 92%
New York Times 85% 95% 86% 79% 88% 85%
Wall Street Journal 82% 92% 80% 74% 87% 92%
Yahoo News 80% 83% 82% 79% 80% 78%
Washington Post 80% 92% 79% 70% 85% 87%
BBC 76% 91% 80% 66% 78% 81%
Google News 71% 70% 72% 73% 71% 62%
Huffington Post 66% 88% 64% 53% 68% 76%
Rush Limbaugh Show 66% 78% 57% 55% 78% 91%
New Yorker 65% 85% 69% 54% 65% 67%
Daily Show 64% 87% 67% 55% 63% 57%
Colbert Report 62% 86% 64% 52% 59% 59%
Bloomberg 60% 73% 59% 48% 65% 77%
NPR 53% 82% 50% 36% 57% 63%
Glenn Beck Program 49% 63% 39% 32% 68% 83%
Sean Hannity Show 45% 61% 36% 29% 58% 84%
Al Jazeera America 42% 70% 43% 26% 43% 60%
Guardian 36% 69% 37% 23% 31% 37%
Drudge Report 34% 55% 23% 20% 43% 68%
Economist 34% 67% 34% 24% 28% 31%
Politico 32% 59% 25% 15% 37% 61%
BuzzFeed 31% 60% 32% 24% 24% 25%
Mother Jones* 22% 62% 19% 9% 14% 28%
Slate 21% 54% 18% 10% 16% 20%
TheBlaze 18% 15% 8% 10% 33% 53%
Breitbart 15% 22% 7% 7% 20% 42%
Ed Schultz Show* 15% 35% 13% 6% 13% 26%
Daily Kos* 12% 35% 10% 4% 9% 17%
ThinkProgress* 9% 30% 7% 2% 7% 9%

Where do Americans get their political news, and how does this search for information differ across the conservative to liberal spectrum? Panelists were asked whether, over the course of the previous week, they got news about government and politics from each of the 36 sources listed below for news about government and politics. The sortable table shows where the left, right and those in between go to learn about what's going on in Washington and across the nation.

Consumption of News Sources

% of respondents who got news about politics and government in the previous week from each source

Source Overall Consistently liberal Mostly liberal Mixed Mostly conservative Consistently conservative
CNN 44% 52% 48% 49% 32% 20%
Fox News 39% 10% 24% 39% 61% 84%
ABC News 37% 33% 38% 42% 32% 26%
NBC News 37% 37% 44% 40% 29% 21%
CBS News 29% 30% 32% 32% 24% 22%
MSNBC 27% 38% 32% 25% 23% 13%
Yahoo News 24% 16% 25% 27% 25% 17%
Google News 22% 18% 23% 26% 19% 13%
NPR 20% 53% 23% 12% 10% 8%
BBC 17% 34% 21% 12% 8% 10%
PBS 17% 37% 18% 12% 10% 7%
New York Times 13% 33% 15% 8% 7% 5%
Huffington Post 13% 29% 15% 8% 8% 10%
Daily Show 12% 34% 14% 7% 4% 1%
USA TODAY 12% 13% 13% 11% 13% 11%
Colbert Report 10% 26% 12% 6% 5% 1%
Wall Street Journal 10% 12% 10% 7% 13% 16%
Sean Hannity Show 9% 1% 0% 3% 19% 45%
Rush Limbaugh Show 8% 1% 0% 3% 17% 43%
Washington Post 8% 17% 9% 4% 5% 6%
Glenn Beck Program 6% 1% 0% 2% 13% 34%
TheBlaze 5% 1% 1% 1% 10% 29%
Drudge Report 5% 1% 1% 2% 10% 20%
Politico 4% 12% 3% 2% 4% 4%
Al Jazeera America 4% 12% 5% 2% 1% 2%
Bloomberg 4% 5% 4% 3% 5% 5%
BuzzFeed 4% 8% 5% 3% 3% 0%
New Yorker 3% 10% 3% 1% 1% 0%
Breitbart 3% 1% 1% 1% 5% 16%
Economist 3% 7% 4% 2% 2% 2%
Guardian 3% 9% 4% 2% 1% 1%
Slate 3% 9% 2% 1% 1% 0%
Mother Jones* 2% 10% 2% 1% 0% 0%
Ed Schultz Show* 2% 8% 1% 0% 0% 1%
Daily Kos* 2% 9% 1% 0% 0% 1%
ThinkProgress* 1% 6% 1% 0% 0% 0%

The study sought to measure not just whether people have heard of a variety of news sources, but which ones they trust. nine sources are trusted by 50% or more of consistent liberals. That compares with four sources trusted by at least half of consistent conservatives. Three outlets, CNN, ABC News and NBC News, are trusted by at least 50% of all panelists. It's worth noting that the 'distrust' numbers may be low for some lesser-known outlets mainly because many respondents have never heard of them, rather than because most respondents trust them.

Trust of News Sources

% of respondents saying they trust each source

Source Overall Consistently liberal Mostly liberal Mixed Mostly conservative Consistently conservative
CNN 54% 56% 66% 61% 39% 14%
ABC News 50% 52% 59% 56% 40% 18%
NBC News 50% 56% 63% 54% 37% 16%
CBS News 46% 51% 55% 50% 36% 16%
Fox News 44% 6% 28% 47% 72% 88%
MSNBC 38% 52% 48% 39% 26% 7%
PBS 38% 71% 50% 31% 23% 8%
BBC 36% 69% 45% 28% 22% 12%
New York Times 34% 62% 45% 29% 17% 3%
USA TODAY 33% 29% 38% 38% 29% 14%
Wall Street Journal 31% 35% 34% 28% 32% 30%
NPR 29% 72% 36% 19% 14% 3%
Washington Post 27% 48% 33% 23% 17% 7%
Google News 25% 25% 26% 29% 20% 11%
Yahoo News 20% 17% 25% 22% 14% 10%
Huffington Post 18% 38% 21% 13% 10% 5%
Daily Show 16% 45% 21% 10% 5% 0%
Colbert Report 15% 36% 20% 10% 7% 2%
New Yorker 14% 32% 18% 11% 7% 1%
Economist 12% 30% 14% 7% 8% 4%
Sean Hannity Show 12% 0% 1% 6% 28% 62%
Rush Limbaugh Show 12% 0% 2% 6% 27% 58%
Bloomberg 11% 18% 13% 8% 8% 7%
Glenn Beck Program 10% 0% 1% 4% 24% 51%
Al Jazeera America 9% 28% 11% 3% 3% 3%
Drudge Report 8% 1% 2% 4% 15% 34%
Guardian 7% 21% 8% 4% 3% 2%
Politico 7% 21% 7% 2% 4% 5%
TheBlaze 6% 1% 0% 2% 13% 37%
Mother Jones* 6% 25% 5% 1% 0% 1%
Breitbart 4% 0% 0% 2% 8% 25%
Slate 4% 14% 4% 1% 1% 0%
Ed Schultz Show* 3% 14% 3% 0% 0% 0%
BuzzFeed 2% 6% 3% 1% 1% 0%
Daily Kos* 2% 10% 1% 0% 0% 0%
ThinkProgress* 2% 10% 2% 0% 0% 1%

The study attempted to measure not just whether people had heard of a variety of news sources, but which ones they really trusted when it came time to get straight info about politics and governments. There is not a single news source distrusted by at least half of all panelists or those with mixed or mostly conservative views. Six sources are distrusted by 50% or more of consistent conservatives and four are distrusted by most consistent liberals. It's worth keeping in mind when reading the table that the 'distrust' numbers may be low for some less well known outlets mainly because most respondents have never heard of them, rather than because most respondents do not trust them.

Distrust of News Sources

% of respondents saying they distrust each source

Source Overall Consistently liberal Mostly liberal Mixed Mostly conservative Consistently conservative
Rush Limbaugh Show 39% 75% 47% 33% 21% 7%
Fox News 37% 81% 54% 28% 11% 3%
Glenn Beck Program 24% 59% 30% 16% 13% 4%
MSNBC 22% 9% 9% 15% 40% 75%
Sean Hannity Show 21% 54% 26% 13% 7% 5%
CNN 20% 12% 11% 14% 33% 61%
NBC News 19% 6% 7% 15% 35% 62%
Daily Show 18% 4% 11% 18% 31% 34%
ABC News 17% 6% 8% 14% 27% 52%
CBS News 17% 6% 9% 11% 32% 51%
Huffington Post 17% 10% 12% 13% 26% 44%
New York Times 17% 3% 6% 13% 33% 50%
Al Jazeera America 16% 8% 8% 11% 25% 47%
Colbert Report 16% 6% 11% 15% 25% 30%
Yahoo News 16% 9% 15% 20% 15% 19%
Washington Post 14% 6% 6% 10% 26% 39%
USA TODAY 13% 11% 10% 8% 18% 30%
PBS 12% 2% 5% 12% 20% 34%
Google News 11% 4% 8% 16% 10% 12%
New Yorker 10% 4% 8% 7% 17% 27%
Wall Street Journal 10% 14% 6% 9% 11% 17%
Drudge Report 9% 27% 8% 5% 3% 3%
NPR 9% 1% 2% 5% 17% 39%
Bloomberg 8% 5% 5% 5% 12% 20%
BuzzFeed 8% 11% 8% 8% 7% 6%
BBC 7% 2% 3% 9% 11% 17%
Mother Jones* 5% 3% 2% 3% 6% 19%
Politico 5% 4% 1% 3% 10% 20%
Ed Schultz Show* 5% 4% 3% 2% 10% 19%
Breitbart 4% 16% 3% 1% 0% 1%
Guardian 4% 7% 4% 4% 4% 4%
TheBlaze 3% 6% 2% 1% 4% 1%
Daily Kos* 3% 3% 2% 2% 5% 10%
Slate 3% 4% 1% 2% 4% 8%
Economist 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 3%
ThinkProgress* 2% 2% 1% 1% 4% 6%

For each of the news media sources listed below, respondents were asked whether they have heard of the outlet, gone there for news in the past week, and whether they consider it trustworthy. Not surprisingly, by virtue of their greater familiarity, the most well-known sources also tend to be the sources trusted and consumed by the greatest percentage of political news consumers. Overall, panelists trust more sources than they distrust.

Media Habits

% of respondents who...

Source Have heard of Got news from Trust Distrust
CNN 95% 44% 54% 20%
ABC News 94% 37% 50% 17%
NBC News 94% 37% 50% 19%
CBS News 93% 29% 46% 17%
Fox News 93% 39% 44% 37%
MSNBC 89% 27% 38% 22%
PBS 88% 17% 38% 12%
BBC 76% 17% 36% 7%
New York Times 85% 13% 34% 17%
USA TODAY 90% 12% 33% 13%
Wall Street Journal 82% 10% 31% 10%
NPR 53% 20% 29% 9%
Washington Post 80% 8% 27% 14%
Google News 71% 22% 25% 11%
Yahoo News 80% 24% 20% 16%
Huffington Post 66% 13% 18% 17%
Daily Show 64% 12% 16% 18%
Colbert Report 62% 10% 15% 16%
New Yorker 65% 3% 14% 10%
Economist 34% 3% 12% 2%
Sean Hannity Show 45% 9% 12% 21%
Rush Limbaugh Show 66% 8% 12% 39%
Bloomberg 60% 4% 11% 8%
Glenn Beck Program 49% 6% 10% 24%
Al Jazeera America 42% 4% 9% 16%
Drudge Report 34% 5% 8% 9%
Guardian 36% 3% 7% 4%
Politico 32% 4% 7% 5%
TheBlaze 18% 5% 6% 3%
Mother Jones* 22% 2% 6% 5%
Breitbart 15% 3% 4% 4%
Slate 21% 3% 4% 3%
Ed Schultz Show* 15% 2% 3% 5%
BuzzFeed 31% 4% 2% 8%
Daily Kos* 12% 2% 2% 3%
ThinkProgress* 9% 1% 2% 2%

On average, respondents with consistently liberal political values turn to more sources for news about government and politics than do those in other groups. They also trust more sources than do other groups. Nine of the 36 sources are trusted by more than 50% of consistent liberals.

Media Habits of Consistently Liberal Respondents

% of respondents with consistently liberal ideological views who...

Source Have heard of Got news from Trust Distrust
NPR 82% 53% 72% 1%
PBS 95% 37% 71% 2%
BBC 91% 34% 69% 2%
New York Times 95% 33% 62% 3%
CNN 97% 52% 56% 12%
NBC News 98% 37% 56% 6%
ABC News 97% 33% 52% 6%
MSNBC 96% 38% 52% 9%
CBS News 96% 30% 51% 6%
Washington Post 92% 17% 48% 6%
Daily Show 87% 34% 45% 4%
Huffington Post 88% 29% 38% 10%
Colbert Report 86% 26% 36% 6%
Wall Street Journal 92% 12% 35% 14%
New Yorker 85% 10% 32% 4%
Economist 67% 7% 30% 2%
USA TODAY 93% 13% 29% 11%
Al Jazeera America 70% 12% 28% 8%
Google News 70% 18% 25% 4%
Mother Jones* 62% 10% 25% 3%
Guardian 69% 9% 21% 7%
Politico 59% 12% 21% 4%
Bloomberg 73% 5% 18% 5%
Yahoo News 83% 16% 17% 9%
Ed Schultz Show* 35% 8% 14% 4%
Slate 54% 9% 14% 4%
Daily Kos* 35% 9% 10% 3%
ThinkProgress* 30% 6% 10% 2%
BuzzFeed 60% 8% 6% 11%
Fox News 94% 10% 6% 81%
TheBlaze 15% 1% 1% 6%
Drudge Report 55% 1% 1% 27%
Glenn Beck Program 63% 1% 0% 59%
Breitbart 22% 1% 0% 16%
Sean Hannity Show 61% 1% 0% 54%
Rush Limbaugh Show 78% 1% 0% 75%

On average, respondents with mostly liberal political views have heard of fewer sources than consistent liberals. The most trusted sources among this group are similar to those of respondents overall – but they trust these sources at higher rates.

Media Habits of Mostly Liberal Respondents

% of respondents with mostly liberal ideological views who...

Source Have heard of Got news from Trust Distrust
CNN 95% 48% 66% 11%
NBC News 93% 44% 63% 7%
ABC News 93% 38% 59% 8%
CBS News 93% 32% 55% 9%
PBS 90% 18% 50% 5%
MSNBC 88% 32% 48% 9%
BBC 80% 21% 45% 3%
New York Times 86% 15% 45% 6%
USA TODAY 89% 13% 38% 10%
NPR 50% 23% 36% 2%
Wall Street Journal 80% 10% 34% 6%
Washington Post 79% 9% 33% 6%
Fox News 94% 24% 28% 54%
Google News 72% 23% 26% 8%
Yahoo News 82% 25% 25% 15%
Daily Show 67% 14% 21% 11%
Huffington Post 64% 15% 21% 12%
Colbert Report 64% 12% 20% 11%
New Yorker 69% 3% 18% 8%
Economist 34% 4% 14% 2%
Bloomberg 59% 4% 13% 5%
Al Jazeera America 43% 5% 11% 8%
Guardian 37% 4% 8% 4%
Politico 25% 3% 7% 1%
Mother Jones* 19% 2% 5% 2%
Slate 18% 2% 4% 1%
BuzzFeed 32% 5% 3% 8%
Ed Schultz Show* 13% 1% 3% 3%
Drudge Report 23% 1% 2% 8%
Rush Limbaugh Show 57% 0% 2% 47%
ThinkProgress* 7% 1% 2% 1%
Glenn Beck Program 39% 0% 1% 30%
Daily Kos* 10% 1% 1% 2%
Sean Hannity Show 36% 0% 1% 26%
TheBlaze 8% 1% 0% 2%
Breitbart 7% 1% 0% 3%

Respondents with a mix of conservative and liberal views trust more sources than they distrust. They also tend to gravitate toward both broadcast and cable television sources for news about government and politics.

Media Habits of Respondents with Mixed Ideological Views

% of respondents with mixed ideological views who...

Source Have heard of Got news from Trust Distrust
CNN 93% 49% 61% 14%
ABC News 93% 42% 56% 14%
NBC News 92% 40% 54% 15%
CBS News 91% 32% 50% 11%
Fox News 90% 39% 47% 28%
MSNBC 86% 25% 39% 15%
USA TODAY 86% 11% 38% 8%
PBS 83% 12% 31% 12%
Google News 73% 26% 29% 16%
New York Times 79% 8% 29% 13%
BBC 66% 12% 28% 9%
Wall Street Journal 74% 7% 28% 9%
Washington Post 70% 4% 23% 10%
Yahoo News 79% 27% 22% 20%
NPR 36% 12% 19% 5%
Huffington Post 53% 8% 13% 13%
New Yorker 54% 1% 11% 7%
Colbert Report 52% 6% 10% 15%
Daily Show 55% 7% 10% 18%
Bloomberg 48% 3% 8% 5%
Economist 24% 2% 7% 2%
Sean Hannity Show 29% 3% 6% 13%
Rush Limbaugh Show 55% 3% 6% 33%
Glenn Beck Program 32% 2% 4% 16%
Drudge Report 20% 2% 4% 5%
Guardian 23% 2% 4% 4%
Al Jazeera America 26% 2% 3% 11%
TheBlaze 10% 1% 2% 1%
Breitbart 7% 1% 2% 1%
Politico 15% 2% 2% 3%
BuzzFeed 24% 3% 1% 8%
Mother Jones* 9% 1% 1% 3%
Slate 10% 1% 1% 2%
Daily Kos* 4% 0% 0% 2%
Ed Schultz Show* 6% 0% 0% 2%
ThinkProgress* 2% 0% 0% 1%

On average, those with mostly conservative political values trust and distrust about the same number of sources. No news source is distrusted by a majority of this group, though 15 sources draw more distrust than trust.

Media Habits of Mostly Conservative Respondents

% of respondents with mostly conservative ideological views who...

Source Have heard of Got news from Trust Distrust
Fox News 94% 61% 72% 11%
ABC News 96% 32% 40% 27%
CNN 96% 32% 39% 33%
NBC News 95% 29% 37% 35%
CBS News 95% 24% 36% 32%
Wall Street Journal 87% 13% 32% 11%
USA TODAY 92% 13% 29% 18%
Sean Hannity Show 58% 19% 28% 7%
Rush Limbaugh Show 78% 17% 27% 21%
MSNBC 92% 23% 26% 40%
Glenn Beck Program 68% 13% 24% 13%
PBS 90% 10% 23% 20%
BBC 78% 8% 22% 11%
Google News 71% 19% 20% 10%
New York Times 88% 7% 17% 33%
Washington Post 85% 5% 17% 26%
Drudge Report 43% 10% 15% 3%
NPR 57% 10% 14% 17%
Yahoo News 80% 25% 14% 15%
TheBlaze 33% 10% 13% 4%
Huffington Post 68% 8% 10% 26%
Bloomberg 65% 5% 8% 12%
Breitbart 20% 5% 8% 0%
Economist 28% 2% 8% 2%
Colbert Report 59% 5% 7% 25%
New Yorker 65% 1% 7% 17%
Daily Show 63% 4% 5% 31%
Politico 37% 4% 4% 10%
Al Jazeera America 43% 1% 3% 25%
Guardian 31% 1% 3% 4%
BuzzFeed 24% 3% 1% 7%
Slate 16% 1% 1% 4%
Daily Kos* 9% 0% 0% 5%
Mother Jones* 14% 0% 0% 6%
Ed Schultz Show* 13% 0% 0% 10%
ThinkProgress* 7% 0% 0% 4%

Those with consistently conservative political values are united around a single source – Fox News – in a way that no other ideological group is. Overall, 24 of the 36 sources surveyed draw more distrust than trust among this group.

Media Habits of Consistently Conservative Respondents

% of respondents with consistently conservative ideological views who...

Source Have heard of Got news from Trust Distrust
Fox News 96% 84% 88% 3%
Sean Hannity Show 84% 45% 62% 5%
Rush Limbaugh Show 91% 43% 58% 7%
Glenn Beck Program 83% 34% 51% 4%
TheBlaze 53% 29% 37% 1%
Drudge Report 68% 20% 34% 3%
Wall Street Journal 92% 16% 30% 17%
Breitbart 42% 16% 25% 1%
ABC News 95% 26% 18% 52%
CBS News 93% 22% 16% 51%
NBC News 94% 21% 16% 62%
CNN 94% 20% 14% 61%
USA TODAY 93% 11% 14% 30%
BBC 81% 10% 12% 17%
Google News 62% 13% 11% 12%
Yahoo News 78% 17% 10% 19%
PBS 92% 7% 8% 34%
Bloomberg 77% 5% 7% 20%
MSNBC 94% 13% 7% 75%
Washington Post 87% 6% 7% 39%
Huffington Post 76% 10% 5% 44%
Politico 61% 4% 5% 20%
Economist 31% 2% 4% 3%
Al Jazeera America 60% 2% 3% 47%
NPR 63% 8% 3% 39%
New York Times 85% 5% 3% 50%
Colbert Report 59% 1% 2% 30%
Guardian 37% 1% 2% 4%
Mother Jones* 28% 0% 1% 19%
New Yorker 67% 0% 1% 27%
ThinkProgress* 9% 0% 1% 6%
BuzzFeed 25% 0% 0% 6%
Daily Kos* 17% 1% 0% 10%
Daily Show 57% 1% 0% 34%
Ed Schultz Show* 26% 1% 0% 19%
Slate 20% 0% 0% 8%

Source: American Trends Panel (wave 1). Survey conducted March 19-April 29, 2014. Based on all Web respondents (representative of the 89% of Americans with internet access). (Overall N=2,901; see About the Study for sample sizes of each ideological group.) Respondents were asked which (of 36 sources for news about government and politics) they have heard of, trust, distrust and got news from in the past week. Ideological consistency based on a scale of 10 political values questions. To see audience profiles, click each source. *Note that ThinkProgress, Daily Kos, Mother Jones and The Ed Schultz Show do not have audience profiles because the sample sizes for these audiences are too small to analyze.