Fox News pushes conservatives further to the right by distorting their perceptions

Now here's a completely unsurprising thing - watching Fox News tends to harden the conservative views of the people who watch it.

Although we probably didn't need research to tell us that, it does underline the way in which media output reinforces its consumers' political and social outlook.

The reciprocal relationship between viewer and TV channel is identified in a survey called "What Americans want from immigration reform in 2014," which was carried out by the Brookings Institute, see here, and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), see here.

The survey illustrates, yet again, that there is a tendency for people to select media outlets, and media information, that supports their predispositions. The report states:

"It is not possible from this data to offer a precise solution to the chicken-and-egg question: whether the more important fact is that those with very conservative views are already attracted to Fox, or whether Fox turns its viewers into conservatives.

What is clear is that conservatives are drawn to Fox, and that Fox may, in turn, reinforce and perhaps harden conservative views."

In considering Americans' views on immigration reform, the report notes how people's media choices strongly affect their beliefs:

"Only 12% of Americans who most trust Fox News for information about politics and current events correctly believe deportations have increased.

In contrast, nearly one-quarter (24%) of Americans who most trust broadcast news, one-third (33%) Americans who most trust CNN, and 35% of Americans who most trust public television believe the deportation rate has increased."

The right-wing bent of the Fox News audience is illustrated throughout its viewers' responses to a range of questions.

Republican voters who watch Fox are more conservative in their views than Republicans who do not. Examples:

"Among Fox News Republicans, 60% say reducing the budget deficit should be among the highest priorities, compared with 46% of other Republicans.

Fox News Republicans are far more forceful in their opposition to same-sex marriage: 76% are opposed to same-sex marriage, including 47% who say they are strongly opposed. Among non-Fox Republicans, only 57% oppose same-sex marriage, and only 31% strongly oppose it.

One of the starkest differences between the two Republican groups came on the minimum wage. Fox News Republicans oppose increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by a margin of 64% to 33%. But non-Fox Republicans favour the wage increase, 56% to 41%."

Similarly, 60% of Republicans who trust Fox News most say immigrants "burden our country because they take our jobs, housing, and health care." But only 38% of Republicans who prefer other news sources say the same thing.

It is sobering to note that a quarter of all Americans said Fox News was their most trusted TV news source, which is the highest rating for any TV news outlet. CNN was favoured by 17%.

Among conservatives, unsurprisingly, Fox is huge: 48% trust it most. "By contrast, there is no dominant trusted news source among Democrats or liberals," according to the study.

Fox News is owned by 21st Century Fox, which is chaired by Rupert Murdoch. Last August, it was estimated that it reaches more than 97m American households.