There Are Big Differences Between Republicans and Republicans Who Watch Fox News

On almost every category of political and social importance, Republicans and the smaller set of Republicans who watch Fox News have significantly differing opinions and understandings of the world, a recent study shows.

The June 2014 study [PDF] comes courtesy the Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings Institute and ostensibly focuses on opinions on immigration reform. But the most interesting numbers include the impact of Fox News on shaping the reform debate. 

According to the surveys, "Only 42% of Republicans who most trust Fox News to provide accurate information about politics and current events support a path to citizenship, compared to 60% of Republicans who most trust other news sources." Overall, 51 percent of Republicans support creating a path to citizenship, giving a nine percentage point edge in each direction depending on whether the respondent goes to Fox for their news.

That Fox News-infused opinion isn't just seen on immigration reform, though. On almost every polling question — raising the minimum wage, gay marriage, Obama's approval — Republicans who trust Fox News above other sources had less progressive views than those who most trusted another TV news source.

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We're interested in the red bar graphs here depicting Fox News Republicans and non-Fox News republicans, and the different lengths between the two. On the topic of whether "immigrants strengthen our country" that contrast is most stark, as 56 percent of non-Fox News Republicans agree compared to just 33 percent of Fox News-watching Republicans. It's the same for opinions concerning raising the minimum wage.

Sure, it's well known that the media is a powerful shaper of opinion, by choosing which specific topics to cover heavily (see: Benghazi) or framing stories in a certain manner. But it's notable that even within a group with supposedly similar values and opinions, Fox News' effect has a major impact.

That's especially important because Fox News is the most trusted news source among conservatives by a wide margin, as 53% of Republicans said they trusted Fox News the most.

That leaves another 47 percent of Republicans who most trust another news source. In all likelihood, they hold more progressive views on immigration reform, same-sex marriage, and the minimum wage. As the study's authors note, trust in Fox News was the single most powerful predictor of opinions on a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Asking if someone most trusts Fox News may be more effective at gauging their opinions than asking about party identification.

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