If there was a poll that made you wonder who was doing the polling -- or what kind of sample was being surveyed -- this one might be it.
It begins fairly enough: more Americans get their political news from Fox News than any other source. This seems consistent with reality: Fox News has a larger audience than any other cable news channel, and a larger share of voice than any American newspaper (though it's still lapped by network news broadcasts).
According to the poll -- conducted by Politico and George Washington University -- 42 percent of those watching cable news consider Fox their "main source," with 30 percent said to be reliant on CNN and just 12 percent watching MSNBC.
This doesn't, however, seem to jibe with ratings reports. According to cable news TV ratings released last week, Fox News beat MSNBC in the key 25 to 54 demographic with a rating of 333 to 127. CNN came in with last place ratings, at 118 for the main CNN network and 119 for CNN's Headline News. That would put MSNBC ahead of CNN in the ratings race.
In primetime, Fox beats MSNBC by about two times: 574 to MSNBC's 251. If the "main source" of news is primetime television, then MSNBC should have done considerably better in the Politico poll than just 12 percent.
But if the "main source" results seem off, the "who's a positive influence" results seem even stranger.
When asked who they thought had the most "positive impact" on "political debate in the country," respondents allegedly cited two Fox News personalities -- and Rush Limbaugh.
Fox’s opinionated personalities were also rated as having the greatest positive impact on the political debate in the country. Bill O’Reilly was rated as having, by far, the greatest positive impact, with 49 percent of respondents rating him positively, and 32 percent negatively.
Glenn Beck was the second most-positively rated personality, with 38 percent of respondents saying he had a positive impact, and 32 percent saying he had a negative impact.
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was the third-most-positively ranked, with 36 percent saying he has a positive impact on the discourse, but his negatives far outweighed his positives, with 52 percent saying he has a negative impact.
The Politico piece remarks wryly, "The results of the poll... also reflect a trend that many commentators and media analysts find disconcerting: Voters are turning to media sources that reinforce their political worldviews rather than present them with more objective reporting that might challenge their assumptions."
“As more people get news from cable channels and websites that offer a particular point of view 24/7, it becomes increasingly important for viewers to sample multiple sources in order to best understand the issues and proposed solutions,” the piece quotes a George Washington University professor as saying. “This trend is only increasing.”
According to the site, the poll involved 1,001 likely American voters, and was conducted Sept. 19 to Sept. 22. It purports to have a 3.1 percent margin of error.