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Rasmussen/Heartland Poll: Viewers of Conservative Media More Likely to Get the Facts Right on Topics in the News

May 17, 2021

From April 29 to May 3, Rasmussen Reports and The Heartland Institute, a national free-market think tank, conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 likely voters.

From April 29 to May 3, Rasmussen Reports and The Heartland Institute, a national free-market think tank, conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 likely voters. Included in the poll was a series of questions asking likely voters how they receive news and information, as well as questions about a variety of topics in the news: the U.S. national debt, the percentage of Americans without health coverage, and tax rates paid by wealthy individuals and families. The following results from the survey illustrate likely voters’ views on these important issues, as well as how those views are correlated with news media preferences.

You can download the full survey results and all crosstabs by clicking here. (We strongly recommend that in addition to considering our summary bullet points below, you download the full results and view the crosstabs for this survey, because this is where you’ll find the crosstabs about media preferences and other important information.)

You can find other results from the same survey, covering topics like police shootings and climate change, by clicking here and here.

Some of The Heartland Institute’s key findings from an analysis of the survey results include:

  • There is a strong correlation between a likely voter’s favorite television news outlet and his or her understanding of basic facts about important topics in the news.
     
    • Generally speaking, respondents who identified CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, or NBC as their “favorite” TV news outlet were more likely to incorrectly answer questions about the national debt, the income tax rate paid by the wealthy, and the percentage of the population that’s uninsured than the viewers of Fox News or “another” cable or network news station (such as The Blaze TV or Newsmax).
       
    • Our survey also seems to indicate that those who do not watch cable news or network news are more likely to answer our questions about the news accurately than the viewers of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, or NBC.
       
  • Compared to viewers of Fox News, “another” cable news outlet, and those who don’t watch network news, viewers of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC are substantially more likely to underestimate the size of the national debt, with many dramatically underestimating the debt.
     
    • For example, 69% of CBS viewers and 65% of NBC viewers underestimated the national debt, compared to 44% for those who said they don’t watch network news.
       
    • About 30% of CNN viewers and 32% of CBS viewers said the national debt was only $5 trillion or less. For context, the U.S. national debt has not been that low since 1995, more than 25 years ago.
       
    • Fox News viewers and those who watch “another” cable network not listed among survey results (such as The Blaze TV or Newsmax) were most likely to accurately identify the national debt, with 35% and 37%, respectfully, making the correct selection.
       
  • Viewers of Fox News or “another” cable network not listed in the survey, as well as those who “don’t watch” cable or network news, were also most likely to accurately identify the top federal income tax rate.
     
    • About two-thirds of the viewers of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC underestimated the top tax rate. About 30% of the viewers of those networks said the top tax rate is just 20% or less.
       
  • Compared to viewers of Fox News, “another” cable news outlet, and those who don’t watch network news, viewers of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC are substantially more likely to underestimate the percentage of the U.S. population that has health coverage.
     
    • More than 90% of the viewers of CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and NBC underestimated the percentage of the population that has health coverage, and a substantial number of those polled dramatically underestimated the number.
       
      • For example, 63% of CNN viewers said at least 20% of the U.S. population did not have health coverage prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The actual answer is about 8.8%.
         
    • Although viewers of Fox News and other cable networks were most likely to correctly select the percentage of the U.S. population without health care coverage, a sizeable percentage of these audiences also underestimated the size of the insured population (82%).

 

Knowledge About News Events and Media Preference

Survey of 2,000 Likely Voters by Rasmussen Reports and The Heartland Institute

April 29-May 3, 2021

 

Question 1.  Where do you primarily read or watch news and opinion content? Cable television (such as CNN or Fox News), network television, online news or commentary websites, YouTube or other social media, talk radio, streaming services, or a mix of services?

            30%     Cable television

            12%     Network television

            14%     Online news or commentary websites

            8%       YouTube or other social media

            4%       Talk radio

            3%       Streaming services

            28%     A mix of services

            2%       Aren’t sure, or use another source

 

Question 2.   Among cable news outlets, which one would you characterize as your favorite? CNN, MSNBC, Fox News or another?

            20%     CNN

            17%     MSNBC

            34%     Fox News

            19%     Another

            10%     You don’t watch cable news outlets

 

Question 3.  Among network news outlets, which one would you characterize as your favorite?  ABC, CBS, NBC, or another?

            18%     ABC

            16%     CBS

            21%     NBC

            30%     Another

            10%     Don’t watch network news outlets

 

I am now going to ask you a series of questions about topics related to recent news events.  Please answer to the best of your ability, even if you are not sure what the correct choice is. (CORRECT ANSWERS ARE BOLDED.)

 

Question 4.  At present, how large is the U.S. national debt? $500 billion to $1 trillion, $1 trillion to $5 trillion, $5 trillion to $10 trillion, $10 trillion to $20 trillion, $20 trillion to $30 trillion, $30 trillion to $40 trillion, or more that $40 trillion?

            5%       $500 billion to $1 trillion

            17%     $1 trillion to $5 trillion

            17%     $5 trillion to $10 trillion

            17%     $10 trillion to $20 trillion

            28%    $20 trillion to $30 trillion

            9%       $30 trillion to $40 trillion

            7%       More than $40 trillion

CORRECT ANSWER: The U.S. national debt is $28.17 trillion, as of April 14, 2021

 

Question 5.  What is the top marginal federal income tax rate (the highest rate one can pay in federal income taxes) for Americans who earn at the top income bracket?  This does not include state income taxes or payroll taxes like Social Security.  0% to 10%, 10% to 20%, 20% to 30%, 30% to 40%, 40% to 50%, or more that 50%?

            8%       0% to 10%

            17%     10% to 20%

            33%     20% to 30%

            31%    30% to 40%

            9%       40% to 50%

            2%       More than 50%

CORRECT ANSWER: The top marginal income tax rate in the United States is 37%.

 

Question 6.  What percent of the U.S. population did not have private health insurance or government-provided health insurance coverage in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic? 0% to 10%, 10% to 20%, 20% to 30%, 30% to 40%, or more that 40%?

            13%    0% to 10%

            35%     10% to 20%

            30%     20% to 30%

            14%     30% to 40%

            8%       More than 40%

CORRECT ANSWER: About 28.9 million Americans were uninsured in 2019, 8.8% of the U.S. population.

Article Tags
Government & Politics
Author
Justin Haskins is the Editorial Director and a Research Fellow at The Heartland Institute.
jhaskins@heartland.org @JustinTHaskins

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