Prior to the 2008 election, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC viewers seemed to be almost equally dismayed with regard to the future of the U.S. economy. On average, only 16% of Fox News viewers, 14% of CNN viewers and 13% of MSNBC viewers thought that the U.S. economy was going to be better off in the following year.
Same network viewers’ economic sentiment began to diverge almost immediately after the election, a trend that continues today. Fox News, CNN and MSNBC viewers are all more likely today to think that the economy is going to be better off in the next year than they were at the end of 2008. However, CNN and MSNBC viewers are considerably more likely to hold an optimistic view than viewers of Fox News. As of April 5, 2010, 34% of CNN viewers and 32% of MSNBC viewers thought the nation’s economy would be better by this time next year versus only 24% of Fox News viewers who held that opinion.
The fact that viewers of the three major cable news networks come from different socio-economic backgrounds offers only a partial explanation of their diverging opinions. What these data also show us is the extent to which media play a role in shaping up public opinion.