Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC

This study examines climate change coverage on the three major cable news channels and assesses the relationship between viewership of these channels and beliefs about global warming. Evidence from a content analysis of climate change coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC during 2007 and 2008 demonstrates that Fox takes a more dismissive tone toward climate change than CNN and MSNBC. Fox also interviews a greater ratio of climate change doubters to believers. An analysis of 2008 survey data from a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults finds a negative association between Fox News viewership and acceptance of global warming, even after controlling for numerous potential confounding factors. Conversely, viewing CNN and MSNBC is associated with greater acceptance of global warming.

Further analyses reveal that the relationship between cable news viewership (both Fox and CNN/MSNBC) and global warming acceptance is stronger among Republicans than among Democrats. That is, the views of Republicans are strongly linked with the news outlet they watch, regardless of how well that outlet aligns with their political predispositions. In contrast, Democrats don’t vary much in their beliefs as a function of cable news use. This asymmetry suggests that some Republicans, who as a group tend to be predisposed toward global warming skepticism, are less skeptical when exposed to information on the reality and urgency of climate change.

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