Fewer than 50 unarmed black suspects were killed by police last year, and more people were killed with knives than with assault weapons. Viewers of MSNBC and CNN are far more likely than Fox News viewers to get those facts wrong.
Half of likely U.S. voters who said CNN or MSNBC was their favorite cable news outlet believe more than 100 unarmed African Americans were fatally shot by police in 2020, according to a new Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports survey.
Only 22% of Fox News viewers believe police shot more than 100 unarmed black people last year.
One survey question asked: “Approximately how many unarmed African Americans were fatally shot by police in 2020? Less than 50, 50 to 100, 500 to 1,000, 1,000 to 5,000, 5,000 to 10,000, or more than 10,000?”
Twenty-four percent of CNN viewers and 19% of MSNBC viewers thought cops fatally shot more than 500 unarmed black suspects last year. Only 9% percent of Fox News viewers thought so.
Fox News viewers (60%) and talk radio listeners (60%) were nearly three times more likely than MSNBC (19%) or CNN (23%) viewers to correctly estimate the number of unarmed black people shot and killed by police in 2020 as less than 50.
President Joe Biden’s strongest supporters were most likely to overestimate the number of unarmed black suspects killed by police. Among voters who strongly approved of Biden’s job performance, only 19% correctly estimated the number of unarmed black people shot and killed by police in 2020 as less than 50.
Whites (46%) were more likely than black voters (38%), Hispanics (38%), or other minorities (44%) to correctly estimate the number of unarmed black people shot and killed by police in 2020 as less than 50.
The survey also asked voters about their viewing preferences for major network news and other media outlets, including online streaming services.
“There is a strong correlation between a likely voter’s favorite television news outlet and his or her understanding of basic facts about police shootings and homicides involving rifles,” Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute observed in an analysis.
“Compared to viewers of Fox News, ‘another’ cable news outlet [such as Newsmax], and those who do not watch television news, viewers of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC were substantially more likely to overestimate the number of fatal police shootings of unarmed African Americans.”
Among Republican voters, 58% said they watched Fox News. Democrats are divided between CNN (34%) and MSNBC (29%). Among voters not affiliated with either major party, 27% said they went to Fox News, 15% said CNN, 12% said MSNBC, 30% said “another” network, and 15% said they didn’t watch cable news.
Homicides committed with knives in the U.S. annually total about 1,500, and those committed with rifles number fewer than 500.
However, 30% of likely voters said the annual number of homicides committed with rifles was more than 500, including 18% believing more than 1,000 homicides are committed annually with rifles.
Thirty percent of MSNBC viewers, 22% of CNN viewers and 19% of Fox News viewers correctly estimated the number of homicides committed with rifles as between 100 and 500.
But while 63% of Fox News viewers underestimated the number of killings with rifles as less than 100, viewers of CNN and MSNBC were more likely to overestimate the number of homicides committed with rifles.
CNN viewers (43%), MSNBC viewers (40%), and talk radio listeners (26%) were more likely than Fox News viewers (19%) to believe rifles are used in more than 500 homicides annually.
The national telephone and online survey of 2,000 likely voters was conducted April 29-May 3, 2021 by the Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.
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