‘Don’t Believe Everything You Hear’:
Ideology’s Influence on News Channel Believability
Morgen S. Johansen
University of Kansas
1541 Lilac Lane, 504 Blake Hall
Lawrence, KS 66047
Television news is an individual’s main source for knowledge about politics. It is
predispositions, especially ideology, that influence what news channel one watches and
ultimately what news channel one believes. This paper focuses on the difference in believability
of two popular news channels: FOX and CNN. I hypothesize that ideology influences news
channel believability, namely that conservatives will believe FOX and liberals will believe CNN.
The results of the regression analysis are presented and discussed. Findings show that ideology is
a significant factor in how much one believes the two news channels.
Americans spend almost the same amount of time watching television as they
spend working. In fact, “the average household consumes the output of cable and
broadcast supplies for nearly seven hours a day [and is] uniform across many
demographic categories” (Woodward 1997, p3-4). Such high consumption could be due
to the hundreds of channels viewers can choose from; more are being added every year.
Among these channels are twenty-four hour news stations, which compete with
local news programming. Each news station frames issues differently. Yet one cannot
watch all news broadcasts on all stations in order to weigh each frame and then decide
which provides the most accurate picture of the situation. Individuals must make a
choice on which news channel to watch and whether they will believe the information
with which they are presented.
The ideological leanings of the news media have been the object of recent
scrutiny since the rise of Fox News Channel. Conservative elites decry CNN’s liberal
bias while liberals lambaste Fox News Channel for its conservative bias. Wicks (2001)
writes that journalists, despite attempts at objectivity, have liberal or conservative
leanings that reflect on