Morris' dubious poll numbers: claims Fox viewers are White House "base" in effort to defend his employer

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

During the October 19 edition of Hannity, Fox News political analyst Dick Morris, in an effort to defend his network against criticism from the White House, claimed that Fox News' audience is the White House's "political base." However, polling indicates that Fox News viewers favored both John McCain and George W. Bush by nearly 10 to 1, and more than three times as many Republicans as Democrats consider Fox News to be their main source of news; polling also indicates that Fox News viewers are routinely more misinformed than consumers of other outlets on issues such as health care and Iraq.

Polls: Fox News viewers overwhelmingly favored McCain, Bush; larger share are Republicans

Morris: Fox News' audience is the Obama administration's "political base." From Fox News' Hannity:

MORRIS: But my polls were pretty darn accurate. And I did a poll this last week, and I asked about Fox News. And I found that half of the Fox News audience are Democrats or independents. And that's why the White House is coming after you, because you're reaching their political base.

Rasmussen: 87 percent of Fox viewers favored McCain. An August 6, 2008, Rasmussen Reports poll found: "Eighty-seven percent (87%) of Fox News viewers say they are likely to vote for John McCain" and "Only nine percent of those who watch Fox News say they will vote for Obama." Fox News partnered with Rasmussen Reports for polling during the 2008 elections on numerous state polls.

Pollster Mellman: Fox viewers supported Bush over Kerry 88 percent to 7 percent. In a March 20, 2007, The Hill op-ed, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman wrote that "in our 2004 polling with Media Vote, using Nielsen diaries, we found that Fox News viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88 percent to 7 percent. No demographic segment, other than Republicans, was as united in supporting Bush. Conservatives, white evangelical Christians, gun owners, and supporters of the Iraq war all gave Bush fewer votes than did regular Fox News viewers."

Pew: Fox audience "includes a larger share of Republicans than do the audiences for other news outlets." The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a survey on September 13 that found that the Fox News audience "includes a larger share of Republicans than do the audiences for other news outlets." The survey found: "More than three times as many Republicans (34%) as Democrats (10%) say they get most of their national and international news from Fox." Nineteen percent of Independents said they get most of their national and international news from Fox. From the poll:

pewpoll

Daily Kos/Research 2000 Poll: 68 percent of Democrats never get their news from Fox News. A Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll conducted from August 3-6 found that 38 percent of Republicans "never" get their news from Fox News; by contrast, 74 percent of Republicans "never" get their news from CNN, and 89 percent "never" get their news from MSNBC. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats never get their news from Fox News, 37 percent never get their news from CNN, and 53 percent never get their news from MSNBC.

Dubious Morris claim: 1/5 of "Americans" watch Fox News every night

Dubious Morris claim: "One out of every five Americans watches Fox News every single night." From Hannity:

MORRIS: One out of every five Americans watches Fox News every single night.

HANNITY: You know, I would argue those numbers are probably, especially on the Democratic side, a little bit low. Because they watch, you know, but they don't want to admit to a pollster that, in fact, they watch it.

Total combined, non-distinct viewers for Fox News from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.: 14 to 17 million. According to Nielsen Media Research numbers provided by TVNewser, Fox News had 14.25 million combined viewers during the 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET hours on Friday, October 16. On Thursday, October 15, Fox News had 17.21 million during same hours. In combining the total viewership from each individual show during these hours, the totals thus should not necessarily imply that there were 14-17 million distinct viewers during the night. For instance, a viewer watching both The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity would count as a "viewer" for each program and as two viewers in "combined viewers" for the 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. hours.

"One out of every five Americans" equals 61.5 million. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's website, accessed on October 20 at 11 a.m. ET, the U.S. population is 307,741,894, of which 20 percent is approximately 61,548,379.

Morris describes his survey on Newsmax: "Overall, the survey showed that 21 percent of all American voters watched Fox News every day" [emphasis added]. In an October 19 Newsmax column describing the results of his poll, Morris did not claim to find that "one out of every five Americans watches Fox News every single night." Rather, Morris wrote that "[o]verall, the survey showed that 21 percent of all American voters watched Fox News every day and 18 percent watched it several times each week."

Daily Kos/Research 2000 Poll: 12 percent watch Fox News "daily." A Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll conducted from August 3-6 found that 12 percent of all respondents watched Fox News daily. It also found that 15 percent of respondents watched CNN daily, and 6 percent of respondents watched MSNBC daily.

Surveys: Fox News viewers misinformed on issues

NBC News poll: Fox News viewers more misinformed on health care. An August 19 blog post from NBC News' Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg wrote that Fox News viewers are more likely to believe health care misinformation that "nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress." From their blog post:

*** FOX vs. CNN/MSNBC: Here's another way to look at the misinformation: In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly. But it would be incorrect to suggest that this is ONLY coming from conservative viewers who tune in to FOX. In fact, 41% of CNN/MSNBC viewers believe the misinformation about illegal immigrants, 39% believe the government takeover stuff, 40% believe the abortion misperception, and 30% believe the stuff about pulling the plug on grandma. What's more, a good chunk of folks who get their news from broadcast TV (NBC, ABC, CBS) believe these things, too. This is about credible messengers using the media to get some of this misinformation out there, not as much about the filter itself. These numbers should worry Democratic operatives, as well as the news media that have been covering this story.

University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes: "Those who primarily watch Fox News are significantly more likely to have misperceptions" about Iraq/WMD. An October 2003 study conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) found Fox News viewers were "significantly more likely to have misperceptions" about the Iraq war than all other media consumers. The study was "based on a series of seven US polls conducted from January through September" 2003 and measured respondents' "key perceptions and beliefs" on "US policy" in Iraq. The study found that "[t]hose who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions." For instance, of the "three key misperceptions" -- which the study listed as "the beliefs that ... links between Iraq and al-Qaeda have been found, that WMD [weapons of mass destruction] have been found in Iraq and that world public opinion approved of the US going to war with Iraq" -- Fox News watchers were found not only to be the "most likely to hold misperceptions," but "were more than twice as likely than the next nearest network to hold all three misperceptions." The PIPA study found that 80 percent of Fox News viewers held at least one of the three misperceptions.

Transcript

From the October 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: All right, now this is simple. The White House's war against Fox stems from the fact it doesn't control this network. But why should the Democrats need such tight control? Why do they want to control the media? What are they afraid of?

Joining me now with answers to all of these questions is the author of the number one New York Times best-seller Catastrophe, Dick Morris. Also, by the way, the pollster for Bill Clinton.

MORRIS: Right.

HANNITY: Why? I mean --

MORRIS: Well, obviously because your -- your -- they don't control you, but the point is they are coming after Fox News not because it's a Republican organization, but because it reaches Democrats and independents, too.

If your entire audience was Republican they wouldn't bother with you, because those are votes they've lost anyway.

HANNITY: Right.

MORRIS: But I did a survey last week, and coincidentally --

HANNITY: And this is what you used to do. You did Bill Clinton's polls.

MORRIS: I did all of his polling for 20 years.

HANNITY: By the way, which I will never forgive you for. But go ahead.

MORRIS: But my polls were pretty darn accurate. And I did a poll this last week, and I asked about Fox News. And I found that half of the Fox News audience are Democrats or independents. And that's why the White House is coming after you, because you're reaching their political base.

HANNITY: All right. Helen Thomas, of all people, hardly a conservative. David Gergen. A lot of people are saying, "Are you guys nuts?" Politically, why would they do this?

Now I have a theory. I think it may in part be they want to distract from the health care debate at this critical time, but I also think it's utter stupidity on the other hand. Your thoughts?

MORRIS: Well, they have gotten killed in the health care debate. They've been clobbered. Health care reform is now 42 positive, 55 negative, according to Rasmussen. It's lost two points in the last week.

And their hope is that they can stop the bleeding. And to do that they want to sell people on the idea that the elderly are being manipulated, that that $400 billion cut in Medicare isn't really going to amount to much, that young people are being manipulated. Those high premiums they're going to pay is just a scare tactic.

And to do that, they have to discredit Fox News. And what they're trying to do is to cut your viewership and your credibility among Democrats and independents. But I found that 17 percent of all Democrats watch this station several times a week or more, 46 percent of all independents do, and 55 percent of all Republicans do.

HANNITY: I would probably --

MORRIS: By the way.

HANNITY: Yeah.

MORRIS: One out of every five Americans watches Fox News every single night.

HANNITY: You know, I would argue those numbers are probably, especially on the Democratic side, a little bit low. Because they watch, you know, but they don't want to admit to a pollster that, in fact, they watch it.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Dick Morris
Show/Publication
Hannity
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