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What Do People Truly Believe About Fake News?

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All the “fake news” talk is enough to make your head spin. Our demographic research for political marketing should put it all in perspective.

What’s real? What’s fake? Is Obama really a Kenyan Muslim? Is Hillary really a criminal member of the liberal elite? Were actors really paid to be counterprotesters in Charlottesville? Is billionaire George Soros really a leftist terrorist sabotaging our country, as this White House petition claims?

And where do the likes of CNN, Fox News, Breitbart, and the New York Times really stand when it comes to trustworthy reporting? The list goes on.

Most of us have a pretty good idea where the truth sits - somewhere in the middle, away from all the extreme partisans and conspiracy theorists. But perception of the free media has A LOT to do with political marketing.

Don’t let your candidate’s strategy effectiveness get hijacked by disillusionment with the media.

Understand Preferred Media Outlets to Build Your Political Marketing Strategy

Let’s let the people speak. Here’s a sample from our recent political marketing research campaign involving more than 3,019 respondents across 50 key media markets nationwide. Participants represented a statistically reliable bell curve running the gamut from “very liberal” to “moderate” to “very conservative.”

Which media outlets do they trust most? Let’s just say more people actually do believe in the news stations and publications President Trump condemns as “fake” and “failing.”

Here are our results (mean scores on a scale of 1 to 10 with one being “complete distrust” and 10 being “complete trust.”:

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You generally see what you’d expect. For instance, within the above averages:

  • 15.1% of “very liberal” voters noted “complete trust” in the Washington Post; while 25.1% of “very conservative” voters noted “complete distrust.”
  • 10.2% of females aged 25-34 noted “complete trust” in the New York Times; while 16.6% of males 45-54 noted “complete distrust.”

Taken as a whole, those surveyed ranked their local newspaper third in trustworthiness (6.3 mean score) - behind first-place PBS and their local news radio station.

Fox News, which long carried the torch of cable news ratings before the departures of Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly, is ranked 15th of 21 in trustworthiness with a mean score of 5.2.

Bringing up the rear, Breitbart is dead last with a mean score of 4.3. Males 35-44 ranked Breitbart most highly, with 8.2% noting “complete trust.” No more than 2.3% of any female age group rated that far-right news site with “complete trust.” Double-digit percentages in each gender and age demographic surveyed chose “not sure” to characterize Breitbart.

InfoWars is next to last with a mean score of 4.4 followed by:

Network news ratings were virtually identical just above the middle of the pack:

A Closer Look at the Worst Media Scores

OK, so look who’s at the top. Now look who’s at the bottom. Makes sense, right?

But let’s pick on InfoWars and its host Alex Jones for a second. (John Oliver already did that for us on his show “Last Week Tonight.”) For those unfamiliar, Jones is an ultra-conservative conspiracist who literally thinks people are putting chemicals in the water to turn people (and frogs) gay. Oliver offered a hilarious assessment of Jones as “the Walter Cronkite of shrieking, bat-shit, gorilla clowns.”

We certainly can appreciate the pointed candor when it’ll make you laugh deep down in your soul. For perspective, on the InfoWars website, you can purchase Bill Clinton rape whistles for $10 with a free “9/11 Was An Inside Job” bumper sticker as a gift.

Yet, some 5.9 million people listen to Jones’ radio show or watch online every week - including Donald Trump.

What does this say for your political marketing strategy? It means you need demographic data to know not only where voters are getting their political news, but also to gauge why they believe what they believe.

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