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Fox viewers think Trump’s the best president, and that’s far from their worst misconception

A recent study suggests frequent viewers of the cable news channel live inside a "FoxHole" of misinformation and lies.

New research finds that Republicans who lean heavily on Fox News for information believe a wide range of things that most Americans think is untrue, such as the idea that President Donald Trump is the best chief executive in U.S. history.  (Photo credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
New research finds that Republicans who lean heavily on Fox News for information believe a wide range of things that most Americans think is untrue, such as the idea that President Donald Trump is the best chief executive in U.S. history. (Photo credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

If there was any doubt about the dangerously divisive impact of Fox News on U.S. democracy, a new poll by a team of progressive researchers underscores the delusional effects the cable network’s pseudo information has on Republican-leaning supporters.

Nearly eight in 10 Republicans who watch Fox News told pollsters that President Donald Trump is the most successful president in history, nearly 90 percent support the GOP tax law, and fewer than one-fifth support the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian tampering with the 2016 election — all views at great variance with opinions shared by the broader U.S. public.

The findings were in a report released Thursday by Navigator, a collaborative project led by Global Strategy Group, GBA Strategies, and activists allied with progressive policies. (Among those serving on Navigator’s advisory committee is Navin Nayak of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.)

The report found an “alternate reality” for Fox viewers, one in which the network informs and shapes their political views. In short, Fox News reinforces skewed perceptions of the people and concerns affecting the nation.

“One thing is clear: where Republican partisan affiliation and the Fox News echo chamber overlap, there is near unanimity on the politics and even the facts defining the Trump presidency,” Navigator said in a statement that accompanied the report.

“This is the ‘FoxHole,'” the report said, adding that “this particular segment of the public is… vastly different” from other news consumers.

Researchers at Global Strategy Group contacted more than 1,000 registered voters in an online poll that analyzed differences between Fox News viewers and those who don’t watch the channel. Among the findings of the poll, which was conducted from March 1 to 4:

  • 12 percent of those in the FoxHole believe climate change is mostly caused by humans, compared to 62 percent of all other Americans (53 percent total);
  • 77 percent are very concerned about the Democratic Party moving in too socialist a direction, compared to 20 percent of all others (31 percent total);
  • 89 percent express support for the Republican tax law, compared to 22 percent of all others (35 percent total);
  • 84 percent support President Trump declaring a national emergency to start building a border wall, compared to 21 percent of all others (33 percent total);
  • 20 percent support the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, compared to 67 percent of all others (58 percent total);
  • 78 percent believe the Trump administration has accomplished more than any administration in history, compared to 17 percent of all others (29 percent total).

Truth be told, these top-line findings won’t come as a great surprise to anyone existing outside of the “FoxHole,” and just as likely, those who dwell there will dismiss it as more “fake news” from liberal media.

But drill deeper, and some important insights can be gleaned. The poll offers ample proof that changing the views of Fox News viewers may not be worth the effort, while focusing on reasonable Republicans who don’t live and die by the cable channel may prove more fruitful.

For example, people who identified as Republicans but said they didn’t watch Fox News were more likely than Fox News-watching Republicans to believe in human-caused climate change and were far less likely to be concerned about socialism among Democrats.

Nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) Republican Fox News viewers told researchers they believed people inside the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies were working to undermine Trump, compared to 49 percent of non-Fox News viewing Republicans and just 8 percent of non-Fox News viewers who didn’t identify as Republican.

“Progressives should be mindful of the challenge from the Fox News echo-chamber and how it skews public perceptions,” the Navigator statement said.

“At the same time, there may be opportunities to reach people who aren’t in the chamber: Republicans who don’t watch Fox News, and non-Republicans who do.”

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