And that's why Pew gets such obvious results. i.e. Of course, Fox News is viewed by a plurality of Americans as being "mostly conservative." And yes, Fox News is seen by far more viewers as having an ideological slant.
But those findings, as well as the related questions involved in the survey, strike me as being left-overs from a by-gone era when people actually had a debate about whether Fox News was conservative or "fair and balanced." I don't even think Fox News staffers, busy promoting political rallies in 2009, think that tag still applies.
The debate, in part driven by the White House, has clearly moved on and the critical issue today now centers around the very important question and distinction of whether Fox News is still actually in the news business as it's commonly defined and recognized in the United States. The question now on the table is whether Fox News is legitimate.
i.e. Nobody's even debating whether Fox News is "mostly conservative." A) That fact is obvious. And B) that's certainly not why the White House has made Fox News an issue. It picked a fight with Fox News because it views it as a purely political entity; the leader of the Opposition Party.
Frankly, I'm amazed no pollsters have yet posed the relevant Fox News question to U.S. voters (is Fox News legit?), given how the topic has been at the center of a nearly three-week media storm. Obviously, my hunch is that self-unidentified Republicans would support the notion that Fox News is, and Dems would likely disagree. But what about independents and centrist, what would they say?
Beltway insiders seem aghast at the mere suggestion that Fox News isn't legit, and maybe Beltway polling firms and their media sponsors dismiss the notion out of hand, which is why nobody's asking the key question. Maybe the Beltway press doesn't want to know how Americans really feel. Maybe Beltway insiders, who've gone all in defending Fox News, don't want to be embarrassed if, in fact, sizable portions of the population don't even think Fox qualifies as a news outlet.
And P.S. This Pew finding is very poorly worded [emphasis added]:
The public is split over whether it is a good thing or bad thing for hosts of cable news shows to have strong opinions about politics; 42% see this as a good thing while as many see it as a bad thing.
But what does that phrase, "hosts of cable news shows" mean? Does it mean Bill O'Reilly? He hosts a show on Fox News but I certainly wouldn't call The O'Reilly Factor a "news" program. Not even close. Or does that phrase mean someone like Fox News' Megan Kelly, who hosts what Fox claims is a straight news show, but clearly displays her "strong opinion about politics."
Again, I wish Pew would go back to the drawing board and do everyone a service and mine opinions about Fox news that really matter to the debate at hand.