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Liberal Media Viewers Are Misinformed About Crime in America.
Fewer than 50 unarmed black suspects were killed by police last year and more people were killed with knives than with so-called “assault weapons,” but viewers of MSNBC and CNN are far more likely than Fox News viewers to get those facts wrong.
A new Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 50% of Likely U.S. Voters who say MSNBC or CNN is their favorite cable news outlet believe more than 100 unarmed African Americans were fatally shot by police in 2020. By contrast, only 22% of Fox News viewers believe police shot more than 100 unarmed black people last year. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Nearly a quarter of CNN viewers (24%) and almost one-in-five MSNBC viewers (19%) think cops fatally shot more than 500 unarmed black suspects last year, but only nine percent (9%) of Fox News viewers think so. Fox News viewers (60%) were about three times more likely than viewers of MSNBC (19%) or CNN (23%) to correctly estimate the number of unarmed black people shot and killed by police in 2020 as less than 50. Sixty percent (60%) of talk radio listeners also estimated the number correctly.
About 1,500 homicides in the U.S. annually are committed with knives, while fewer than 500 are committed with rifles. However, 30% of Likely Voters think the annual number of homicides committed with rifles is more than 500, including 18% who believe more than 1,000 homicides a year are committed with rifles.
Thirty percent (30%) of MSNBC viewers correctly estimated the number of homicides committed with rifles as between 100 and 500, as did 22% of CNN viewers and 19% of Fox News viewers. However, while 63% of Fox viewers underestimated the number of killings with rifles as less than 100, viewers of CNN and MSNBC were more likely to overestimate the number of homicides committed with rifles. Forty-three percent (43%) of CNN viewers and 40% of MSNBC viewers believe rifles are used in more than 500 homicides annually, compared to just 19% of Fox News viewers. Only 26% of talk radio listeners overestimated the number of homicides committed with rifles.
The survey of 2,000 U.S. Likely Voters was conducted on April 29-May 3, 2021 by the Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
The Heartland/Rasmussen survey also asked voters about their viewing preferences for major network news and other media outlets, including online streaming services.
“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,” Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute observed in an analysis. “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.”