Why Republicans Can’t Stay Mad at Fox News

Surprise! Despite Fox fallout, Republicans are still more likely to trust the "fair and balanced" network over competitors.

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Fred Prouser/REUTERS

Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News and Fox Television Stations in Pasadena, California July 24, 2006.

A front page story in today’s edition of Politico announces a “purge” at Fox News, where contentious, hyper-partisan pundits lured Republicans into a false sense of security during the election. Ratings have dropped and viewers feel “duped,” Politico reports, so the network is undergoing a credibility “colonoscopy.” But while Republicans trust Fox less than they have before, a survey highlights why viewers aren’t likely to switch the channel.

For four years, Public Policy Polling has been asking Democrats and Republicans who they trust when it comes to the broadcast media. According to the latest numbers, released on Wednesday, both liberals and conservatives used to trust Fox more than they do now. In PPP’s inaugural poll, about 50% of all viewers said they believed what people were saying on CEO Roger Ailes’ channel. This year only about 40% did, the lowest since PPP has been asking. The other networks from the inaugural poll–ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC–either elicit about the same or slightly more trust than they did in 2010. (CNN is owned by the same parent company as TIME.)

Yet the survey sheds light on a comforting truth for the likes of Ailes. Even on the wane, Republicans still trust Fox far more than other networks. In fact, it’s the only outlet that more of them trust than distrust by enormous margins. Excepting PBS, that disparity is about 50 points. So however mad viewers may be about election coverage or Sarah Palin’s divisive squawking, if most conservatives trust no other news outlet, they remain a fairly captive audience in the broadcast world.

The ratings at Fox, which has topped the Nielsen charts for a decade, are still handily better than other major networks even after the post-election dropoff. On Tuesday, more than 1.1 million tuned in to watch their cable news shows, more than twice the number that watched MSNBC and more than three times the amount that turned into CNN.