It’s too soon to say with confidence whether the Dominion Voting Systems defamation case against Fox News will prevail in the courts, but it’s already creating political problems for the network.
To briefly recap, a recent court filing presented evidence that suggested Fox News promoted bogus election claims they knew to be false, on purpose, in order to placate its audience and make money. We also learned, among other things, that News Corp. Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged under oath that some prominent Fox News hosts “endorsed” baseless claims the network knew to be wrong.
While Fox News has denied all wrongdoing and is vigorously contesting the lawsuit, it was difficult not to wonder how much of this story would reach the public — and whether Americans would care. The latest national poll from Quinnipiac University suggests the controversy has had an effect on the network’s standing.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) think Fox News should be held accountable after Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged in a deposition that a number of the network’s hosts spread false information about the 2020 presidential election being stolen from Donald Trump, while 26 percent think Fox News should not be held accountable.
According to the results, 93% of Democrats agreed that the network should be held accountable, and 67% of self-identified independents agreed. Not surprisingly, there was a partisan gap — GOP voters are bound to be more sympathetic toward an outlet aligned with GOP politics — but Quinnipiac nevertheless found that 41% of Republicans also believe that Fox News should be held accountable.
Tim Malloy, a Quinnipiac polling analyst, noted in an analysis of the data, “Still highly rated, but leaking loyalty? Fox should pay for some of its hosts endorsing false claims about the 2020 election, say a large majority of Americans, and its most loyal viewers aren’t exactly thrilled with the network’s conduct.”
A Washington Post analysis raised a relevant detail: “[T]he poll doesn’t stipulate that the ‘accountability’ means losing the defamation suit; it could, for example, mean accountability in the sense of reduced viewership or executive turnover.”
That’s true. But either way, according to the Quinnipiac poll, two-thirds of the public in general, and more than two-fifths of Republicans in particular, believe the controversial network should be punished in some way as part of its ongoing controversy.
Today, Variety, which covers the entertainment industry, published a related report, highlighting the results of a poll from an opinion research firm called the Maru Group. It found roughly one-in-five Fox News viewers said they now have less trust in the network, and roughly one-in-ten Fox News viewers said they’re watching the network less than they used to in the wake of the revelations.
It’d be an overstatement to suggest those numbers are dramatic, but taken together, the polling suggests the scandal hasn’t gone unnoticed.