According to a recent poll, likely voters get their political news primarily from cable television. Among cable channels, 42 percent, a plurality, watch Fox News for its political coverage. Only 12 percent said they watched MSNBC. What's more, most likely voters don't like or have never heard of MSNBC's prime time talent.
The poll, conducted by Politico and George Washington University, used a sample split evenly between political parties - even slightly favoring Democrats in some areas: 41 percent of respondents identified as Republicans, while 42 percent said they were Democrats. Forty-four percent said they usually vote for Republicans, while 46 percent answered Democrats. Forty-eight percent voted for Obama, while only 45 percent voted for McCain.
Even among this group, Fox News is by far the most popular cable outlet. CNN comes in at second, with 30 percent. A sorry MSNBC brings up the rear.
Among cable news personalities, FNC's Bill O'Reilly - consistently the highest-rated cable news talker - is the most popular. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they thought O'Reilly has a positive impact on the American political conversation. Thirty-two percent said he has a negative impact.
Interestingly, respondents - again, split evenly among the two parties - thought all three of Fox's evening opinion commentators (O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity) have a net positive impact on the national debate. All three have a positive spread in the category. Also of note, for none of the three did majorities answer "never heard of".
MSNBC's hosts are a different story. Only 23 percent said Keith Olbermann has a positive impact on the debate, while 25 said he has a negative one. A plurality, 42 percent, had never heard of him
But at least it was only a plurality. Majorities said they have never heard of Ed Schultz or Rachel Maddow - 70 percent and 55 percent, respectively. The positive impact/negative impact responses were split down the middle for both.
In other words, the vast majority of likely voters either do not like MSNBC's prime time talkers, or have never heard of them (with the notable exception of Chris Matthews, whose name was not included in the poll).
"How did it get to this state?" wonders Ed Morrissey.
After all, NBC had a long history in television news, starting decades before CNN and even longer than Fox. Its partnership with Microsoft should have given the cable news network a distinct advantage in the New Media world. Their roster of news anchors, present and future, should have immediately challenged CNN for primacy and marginalized Fox, who may have had cash but relatively fewer newsgathering resources in the US when it launched.
Under the direction of GE's Jeff Immelt, though, NBC's cable network went for the full-insane demographic. Fox took CNN's talking-head format and simply reversed the bias, although Fox rightly argues that it presents more opposing viewpoints than CNN did as part of their establishment talent and not just occasional guests and party spinmeisters. NBC decided to emulate Air America with its cable lineup instead, perhaps seeing some opportunity in the last Bush term to capitalize on his unpopularity and become a center of opposition opinion.
Rather than accomplish that, the decision by NBC and its parent GE has not just destroyed MSNBC's credibility but also NBC's as well. With the exception of Joe Scarborough, who is hard to pigeonhole but certainly isn't a hard-Left hysteric, the entire lineup is exactly what one would find on the failed libtalker radio network. It's no coincidence that two of its featured hosts come straight out of Air America, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz. Maddow has, at least, produced a watchable show, albeit with a hard-Left tilt that clearly is out of touch with the mainstream, but Schultz is barely coherent. Top that off with a daily "news" broadcast from Keith Olbermann that almost literally consists of a Two Minute Hate (Olbermann's WPIW lists), and it's a recipe for the kind of disaster that only political hacks could love. The wonder is that GE and NBC apparently seem content to alienate 88% of the viewing audience with its trainwreck theater.