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Rasmussen/Heartland Poll: Viewers of Conservative Media More Likely to Get the Facts Right on Police Shootings

May 14, 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 fatal police shootings of unarmed individuals and gun crime. (Please note that the police shootings include incidents in which the person killed by police was shot while attacking a police officer or another individual.) The following results from the survey illustrate likely voters’ understanding of these important issues, as well as how these 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 will find the crosstabs about media preferences and other important information.)

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

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

  • There is a strong correlation between a likely voter’s favorite television news outlet and his or her understanding of basic facts about police shootings and homicides involving rifles.
     
  • Compared to viewers of Fox News, “another” cable news outlet (such as The Blaze TV or Newsmax), and those who do not watch television news, viewers of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC were substantially more likely to overestimate the number of fatal police shootings of unarmed African Americans.
     
  • For example, The Washington Post’s database indicates there were about 18 fatal police shootings of unarmed African Americans in 2020. (If you add “toy weapon” and “BB gun” to “unarmed” incidents, the total is 26.) However, 81% of MSNBC viewers, 77% of CNN viewers, and more than 70% of ABC, CBS, and NBC viewers said they believe there are at least 50 fatal police shootings of unarmed African Americans every year, at least double the real number.
     
  • Further, a large proportion of viewers for CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC dramatically overestimated the number of fatal police shootings of unarmed African Americans. For example, about one-quarter of CNN viewers said at least 500, and 9% reported 1,000 or more. Similarly, 11% of ABC viewers said 1,000 or more, with 5% of the total reporting at least 5,000 fatal police shootings of unarmed African Americans every year.
     
  • Viewers of Fox News, “another” cable news outlet, and those who don’t watch cable or network television news were most likely to accurately estimate the correct number of fatal shootings, with 60% of Fox News viewers and 57% of viewers of “another” cable or streaming network selecting the correct answer, compared to just 19% for MSNBC viewers.
     
  • Between 60% and 70% of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, “another” cable network, ABC, CBS, and NBC viewers selected the correct range of fatal police shootings of unarmed white Americans (less than 50), or selected the next most accurate option (50–100).
     
  • When responses about police shootings of unarmed white and black Americans are analyzed together, it’s clear that compared to viewers of Fox News, other cable news outlets, and those who don’t watch television news, viewers of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC are substantially more likely to overestimate the gap between the number of fatal police shootings of unarmed African Americans and the number of shootings of unarmed white Americans.
     
  • Those respondents who said they “primarily” get their news from talk radio were most likely to correctly answer our question about the number of fatal police shootings of unarmed African Americans, with 60% choosing less than 50. Thirteen percent chose 50 to 100, the next most accurate option.
     
  • Viewers who identified CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, or NBC as their “favorite” TV news outlet are significantly more likely to overestimate the number of homicides that occur each year in the United States involving rifles, including so-called “assault rifles.”
     
    • For example, 46% of CNN viewers and 41% of NBC viewers overestimated the number of homicides involving rifles, compared to just 19% of those who say they don’t watch network news and 18% who said Fox News is their cable news network of choice.
       
  • Viewers who chose Fox News or “another” station as their “favorite” cable news network were significantly more likely to underestimate the number of homicides involving rifles, with 62% saying there are 100 or less every year. (The real number is between 300 and 500.)

 

 

Fatalities from Police Shootings, Crime, and Media Preferences

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. Approximately how many unarmed African Americans were fatally shot by police in 2020?  Less than 50, 50 to 100, 500 to 1,000, 1,000 to 5,000, 5,000 to 10,000, or more than 10,000?

            44%    Less than 50

            22%     50 to 100

            19%     100 to 500

            8%       500 to 1,000

            5%       1,000 to 5,000

            2%       5,000 to 10,000

            0%       More than 10,000

CORRECT ANSWER: According to the Washington Post’s database, 18 unarmed black individuals were fatally shot by police in 2020. If you include “toy weapon” and “BB gun” to “unarmed” incidents, the total is 26.

 

Question 5. Approximately how many unarmed white Americans were fatally shot by police in 2020?  Less than 50, 50 to 100, 500 to 1,000, 1,000 to 5,000, 5,000 to 10,000, or more than 10,000?

            33%    Less than 50

            32%     50 to 100

            20%     100 to 500

            9%       500 to 1,000

            4%       1,000 to 5,000

            1%       5,000 to 10,000

            0%       More than 10,000

CORRECT ANSWER: According to the Washington Post’s database, 24 unarmed white individuals were fatally shot by police in 2020. If you include “toy weapon” and “BB gun” to “unarmed” incidents, the total is 37.

 

Question 6. Approximately how many homicides occur each year in the United States in which the assailant uses a rifle, including so-called “assault rifles?”  Less than 50, 50 to 100, 500 to 1,000, 1,000 to 5,000, 5,000 to 10,000, or more than 10,000?

            28%     Less than 50

            22%     50 to 100

            21%    100 to 500

            12%     500 to 1,000

            11%     1,000 to 5,000

            5%       5,000 to 10,000

            2%       More than 10,000

CORRECT ANSWER: According to an analysis of FBI data by the Foundation for Economic Education, “If we take the time to look at the raw data provided by the FBI, we find that all rifles, not just ‘assault-style rifles,’ constitute on average 340 homicides per year from 2007 through 2017 (see Figure 1.). When we adjust these numbers to take under-reporting into account, that number rises to an average of 439 per year.”

 

Question 7. Approximately how many homicides occur each year in the United States in which the assailant uses a knife or sharp object?  Less than 50, 50 to 100, 500 to 1,000, 1,000 to 5,000, 5,000 to 10,000, or more than 10,000?

            7%       Less than 50

            18%     50 to 100

            29%     100 to 500

            19%     500 to 1,000

            17%    1,000 to 5,000

            8%       5,000 to 10,000

            2%       More than 10,000

CORRECT ANSWER: According to an analysis of FBI data by the Foundation for Economic Education, “between 2007 and 2017, nearly 1,700 people were murdered with a knife or sharp object per year.”

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