Obama Gets Highest Ratings from Followers of Olbermann, Maddow and NYT

A new study by the Pew Research Center found that Barack Obama gets his highest approval ratings from people that watch MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, as well as from readers of the New York Times.

The numbers are rather staggering, as 84 percent of regular viewers of MSNBC's "Countdown" give the President high marks for his job performance.

This compares to 80 percent for regular viewers of "The Rachel Maddow Show" and 79 percent for regular readers of the Times.

But that's just one of the interesting findings in the Pew survey released Sunday:

  • Americans are spending more time with the news than was the case a decade ago. As was the case in 2000, people now say they spend 57 minutes on average getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers on a given day. But today, they also spend an additional 13 minutes getting news online, increasing the total time spent with the news to 70 minutes. This is one of the highest totals on this measure since the mid-1990s and it does not take into account time spent getting news on cell phones or other digital devices .
  • Only about one-in-four (26%) Americans say they read a newspaper in print yesterday, down from 30% two years ago and 38% in 2006. Meanwhile, online newspaper readership continues to grow and is offsetting some of the overall decline in readership. This year, 17% of Americans say they read something on a newspaper's website yesterday, up from 13% in 2008 and 9% in 2006.
  • Overall, cable news continues to play a significant role in peoples' news habits - 39% say they regularly get news from a cable channel. But the proportions saying they regularly watch CNN, MSNBC and CNBC have slipped substantially from two years ago, during the presidential election.
The partisan divide in cable news is stunning if not shocking:
  • Only Fox News has maintained its audience size, and this is because of the increasing number of Republicans who regularly get news there. Four-in-ten Republicans (40%) now say they regularly watch Fox News, up from 36% two years ago and just 18% a decade ago. Just 12% of Republicans regularly watch CNN, and just 6% regularly watch MSNBC.
  • As recently as 2002, Republicans were as likely to watch CNN (28%) as Fox News (25%). The share of Democrats who regularly watch CNN or Fox News has fallen from 2008.
Interesting. So both Democrats and Republicans are reducing their viewership of CNN. Doesn't say much for the supposedly must trusted name in news, does it?
  • Eight-in-ten Americans (80%) who regularly listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Sean Hannity are conservative - roughly twice the national average of 36%. And at the other end of the spectrum, the New York Times, Keith Olbermann, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report and Rachel Maddow have regular audiences that include nearly twice the proportion of liberals than in the public.
  • News audiences also vary widely when it comes to opinions about current issues and topics. For instance, those who describe themselves as supporters of the Tea Party movement make up disproportionately large proportions of the audiences for Limbaugh's radio show and Fox News opinion programs. This also is the case for supporters of the NRA (National Rifle Association).
  • By contrast, supporters of gay rights make up large shares of regular New York Times readers, viewers of the Colbert Report and NPR listeners. Several ideologically divergent news audiences - including Wall Street Journal readers and viewers of the Colbert Report and Glenn Beck show - include larger-than-average percentages of self-described libertarians.
Here's where things really got interesting:
  • Overall, the share of Americans who say keeping up with the news is something they enjoy a lot has dipped, from a consistent 52% in recent biennial news consumption surveys, including 2008, to 45% in 2010.
  • The decline is linked to partisanship and ideology: in 2008 67% of liberal Democrats said they enjoyed the news a lot, compared with just 45% today. By contrast, about as many conservative Republicans say they enjoy keeping up with the news today as did so two years ago (57% now, 56% then). This has resulted in a switch in news enjoyment. Today, conservative Republicans enjoy keeping up with the news more than any other ideological and partisan group; just two years ago it was the liberal Democrats who held that distinction.

How much of this is economic? After all, the news was far better when Pew last did this study in 2008. There certainly is less to "enjoy" today.

On the other hand, that doesn't explain the ideological divide. Maybe liberals liked things better when Bush and the Republicans were being blamed for all the problems in the world, and just can't stand watching their politicians take any heat at all.

By contrast, it seems conservatives enjoy keeping up with the news regardless of which Party is getting scrutinized. That says something, doesn't it?

  • Search engines are playing a substantially larger role in people's news gathering habits - 33% regularly use search engines to get news on topics of interest, up from 19% in 2008.
This is a predictable but yet concerning finding, for it makes it essential that search engines don't have their own biases. As conservatives have pointed fingers at Google's algorithms for years, the more people rely on search engines to guide them to news sources, the more impartial such engines better be, especially for the following reason:
  • About eight-in-ten (82%) say they see at least some bias in news coverage; by a 43% to 23% margin, more say it is a liberal than a conservative bias.

This makes search engine neutrality essential or conservatives are really going to have a hard time leveling the playing field.

That said, we've saved the best for last:

  • Among news audiences, Obama gets his highest approval ratings among regular viewers of Keith Olbermann (84% approve) and Rachel Maddow (80%); his rating is nearly as high among regular readers of the New York Times (79%). Obama gets his lowest ratings among regular Sean Hannity viewers (7%) and Rush Limbaugh listeners (9%).

So Obama gets his highest approval ratings from folks that watch Olbermann, Maddow, and read the New York Times.

What does this say about the journalistic standards at MSNBC and the Gray Lady?

After all, depending on which poll you look at, half or less of the nation currently approve of the job Obama is doing. 

If Olbermann and Maddow watchers, along with Times readers, have such a drastically different view of the President than the rest of the nation, these entities must be doing a horrible job of reporting the news to their patrons. 

Is there any greater example of the dangers of liberal media bias and the need to aggressively combat it? 

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.