The partisan divide in how Americans view media companies is wide and getting wider, according to a new survey from Morning Consult.
Out of the 15 companies that showed the biggest gap in net favorability between Republican and Democratic respondents in the survey, 12 were media companies. While Trump Hotels won the prize for most polarizing brand, with a gap of 86 percentage points between how respondents from the left and right viewed the company, almost the entire rest of the list is made up of news organizations.
For every media company that was part of the survey in 2018, that favorability gap grew over the past year. CNN, the number-two company on the list, saw that divide increase by 14 points, thanks mostly to a 12-point hike in the number of Republican respondents who had a negative view of the network.
Not surprisingly, the tale is similar (though the political slant is reversed) for Fox News, where the increasingly negative view of the network from Democratic respondents resulted in a favorability gap that grew by 19 points.
The real story with Fox, however, is that the divide is not simply between left-leaning and right-leaning media—it’s between Fox and just about everyone else. While a broad range of companies (CNN and the New York Times as well as NBC, CBS and ABC News) were favored more by Democrats than Republicans, the brands favored by Republicans (Fox News, FOX, Fox Business and Fox Nation) all live under the same corporate umbrella.
And despite the negative effect that increasing polarization may be having on the country as a whole, there’s one place where it’s reaping benefits. The study notes that viewership was up at CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, all of whom appear on the list. For the three combined, revenues have risen 36 percent since 2015, with profits up 50 percent.
Trump’s love-to-hate daily read, the Times, has also posted record print and digital subscriptions.
With the number of local newspapers dwindling, the national companies on Morning Consult’s list are gaining an ever-greater share of the public’s attention, the study says.
“We seem to be missing an independent objective news source that people can agree on,” said Joe Barone, managing partner of Brand Safety Americas for media-buying firm Group M, told the study’s authors.