BY DAVID BAUDER
For many Americans, how they feel about issues raised during President Donald Trump’s impeachment has much to do with where they get their news.
A study released Friday by the Pew Research Center illustrated these tendencies, along with the growing Republican suspicion of media sources during the Trump administration.
Roughly two-thirds of Republicans who got their news exclusively from outlets with a primarily conservative audience like Fox News, Breitbart or Rush Limbaugh’s radio show told pollsters in November they believed Trump withheld aid from the Ukraine to advance a U.S. policy to reduce corruption there, Pew said.
Some 10% of these Republicans said Trump did it to help his re-election campaign — the heart of the House’s impeachment case against the president.
But the gap between those views narrows among Republicans with a more varied media diet. And Republicans who avoided media with right-leaning audiences were more likely to say Trump was acting for his own political gain (34% to 21%), although 43% said they weren’t sure why he did it, Pew said.
Democrats who said they got news from outlets that appeal to liberals (MSNBC, NPR or The New York Times) or a mixed audience (ABC and CBS News, USA Today) overwhelmingly said Trump was acting in self-interest, Pew said.
The only place where more uncertainty seeped in was among Democrats who avoided outlets that appealed primarily to the left, although 49% of these still believed Trump was helping himself.
Similarly, those who followed a conservative media diet were much more likely to believe the false narrative that former Vice President Joe Biden called for a Ukrainian prosecutor’s removal to protect his son from being investigated.
Heading into the 2020 campaign, Pew is launching an Election News Pathways project to help Americans understand the relationship between news consumption habits and political perceptions and beliefs.
“We do see the correlation between media diet and what people are hearing, seeing and thinking in terms of perceptions of motivation for actions,” said Amy Mitchell, Pew’s director of journalism research.
In probing general attitudes toward the news media, Pew found that Republicans have grown more alienated from many established news sources than they were in a similar study conducted in 2014. Confidence in the media has been more stable among Democrats, and in some cases has increased.
Three-quarters of conservative Republicans say they trust Fox News, and two-thirds distrust CNN, Pew found. The numbers essentially flip among liberal Democrats, where 70% say they trust CNN and 77% don’t trust what they see on Fox.
Pew noted a “notable growth” in Republicans’ distrust of CNN, The New York Times and Washington Post since its 2014 study. Those outlets have been subject to frequent attacks by Trump.
Pew’s poll didn’t specifically ask people how Trump’s attacks on the media affected their attitudes. But its past surveys have shown that no factor studied affects attitudes toward the media more than political party identification and, among Republicans, supporters of Trump have an even greater animosity toward journalists, Mitchell said.
About one in five Republicans and Democrats alike say they only get news from sources they feel reflects their political beliefs, Pew said.
But there is some overlap, and perhaps some sign that common ground can be reached. Pew found that about a quarter of Democrats say they get some news from Fox, while a quarter of Republicans did the same with CNN.
Pew spoke to more than 12,000 Americans last October and November, all of them part of the organization’s regular online survey panel that has been recruited through a national random sample. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.