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Cable News Viewers Have a Skewed Attitude Toward Gaza Holocaust, Survey Finds

Posted by: John Phoenix
Cable News Viewers Have a Skewed Attitude Toward Gaza War, Survey Finds

An exterior view of the world headquarters for the Cable News Network (CNN) in Atlanta, Georgia, November 17, 2022. (photo)

Cable news viewers are more supportive of Israel’s war effort, less likely to think Israel is committing war crimes, and less interested in the war in general…

A tale of two Americas.

by Ryan Grim, reposted from The Intercept, April 30 2024. (This article was originally published as a newsletter from Ryan Grim. Sign up to get the next one in your inbox.)

AMERICANS WHO GET their news primarily from cable are the only people who believe that Israel is not committing a genocide in Gaza, according to a new survey that examined the relationship between attitudes toward the war and news consumption habits.

The survey puts numbers on trends that have become increasingly apparent: Cable news viewers are more supportive of Israel’s war effort, less likely to think Israel is committing war crimes, and less interested in the war in general. People who get their news primarily from social media, YouTube, or podcasts, by contrast, generally side with the Palestinians, believe Israel is committing war crimes and genocide, and consider the issue of significant importance.

The poll of 1,001 American adults was conducted by J.L. Partners from April 16 through April 18. It was paid for by the YouTube-based news network Breaking Points (for which I co-host the show “Counter Points”).

The survey comes as events surrounding the war in Gaza seem to be coming to a head. Talks aimed at something approaching a ceasefire are reportedly making progress, even as Israel ramps up its bombing campaign in Rafah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent the last week attacking the International Criminal Court for what he said was a looming plan of theirs to charge him with war crimes. The U.S. dutifully came to his defense, preposterously claiming that because Israel is not a party to the ICC, the court has no jurisdiction. The same is true for Russia, but we applauded the ICC’s charges against Vladimir Putin. With U.S. support in hand, Netanyahu announced he’d go forward with a Rafah invasion regardless of whether Hamas accepts a hostage deal.

College administrators and local police are cracking down hard on the mushrooming campus protests. Overnight, Columbia University students took over Hamilton Hall, the same building occupied by antiwar protesters in the 1960s. They renamed it Hind Hall, for 6-year-old Hind Rajab, whose family was killed while they fled to southern Gaza. Her harrowing final phone call to rescuers captivated the globe, as people around the world desperately awaited news of her fate, only to learn Israel had killed not just her and her family, but also the rescuers sent to save her — a rescue team that had coordinated its movements with the Israeli military.

Despite President Joe Biden and much of the media attempting to cast the campus protests as antisemitic, the crackdown and the smear campaign has only fueled the movement’s growth, because young people, as the survey shows, don’t rely on the mainstream media for their news, and there is plenty of footage of the peaceful, respectful protests on social media to counter the false narrative. How else to explain that a thoroughly establishment-minded institution like the College Democrats could have come out in support of the protesters?

The group’s executive board approved the resolution by a vote of 8-2. “I hope it’s clear by looking at the hundreds of college campuses across the country: this generation is committed to ensuring justice for all,” the chair of the College Democrats Muslim Caucus, Hasan Pyarali, told me. “Opposing genocide and hatred against any group is not just good policy, but good politics.”

Joining them is the Fairfax County Democratic Committee in Virginia, which also issued a statement denouncing the crackdown on the protesters. The Fairfax Democrats are about as mainstream, establishment-linked as you could imagine. Many of their members work for the federal government, and many are specifically in the national security field. Yet here they are.

WE OFTEN HEAR people say that “Twitter isn’t real life” or that “Nobody watches cable news,” but the survey asked where people get most of their news, asking them to pick just one, and cable and social media won out. Most Americans do in fact get their news either primarily from cable (42 percent) or social media like TikTok, Instagram, or another platform (18 percent). A third of people said they get their news from YouTube or podcasts, with 13 percent saying they got most of their news that way.

Asked generally where folks got their news on a day-to-day basis, with a “check all that apply” option, it’s even more clear how dominant cable (55 percent), social media (38 percent), and podcasts/YouTube (34) are compared to print, at 21 percent. (I read the survey as using “print” as a stand-in for any text-based media, whether digital like The Intercept or on actual printed paper.) Just 8 percent of people said they got most of their news from print journalism, which was less than the portion of people who said they don’t watch or read the news at all at 13 percent. (That number may be significantly higher in practice, as those who consume zero news could be difficult for pollsters to reach.)

These numbers don’t mean print is irrelevant. News is an ecosystem, with print reporters producing the journalism that is then grist for cable news as well as YouTube shows or podcasts. Print journalists also break much of the news that gets talked about on social media. But social media also gives users/viewers direct access to sources of information they never would have had before, with the journalists in Gaza broadcasting directly to Instagram and TikTok being the most visible recent examples.

What the survey doesn’t quite answer is which phenomenon comes first. Are social media users more likely to oppose the war because of the information they’re exposed to, or simply because they are more likely to be young? Are cable news viewers propagandized into their position by the talking heads they watch, or are they just old and conservative? (Social media use does go far beyond young people, of course. The survey found that 38 percent of people listed it as one of multiple sources of news.)

Asked if Israel is committing a genocide in Gaza, cable news viewers said no by a 34-32 margin. All other news consumers said Israel is committing genocide, including print (36-33), YouTube (41-31), and social media users, who agree with the statement by a 44 to 19 percent margin. People aged 18 to 29, meanwhile, have similar views (48-21 percent), while those over 65 say by a 47 to 21 percent plurality that Israel isn’t committing genocide.

When it comes to the salience of the war on Gaza as an electoral concern, the trend continues. Just 12 percent of the overall public lists it as a top three issue, and just 3 percent say it’s their top issue. Of that 3 percent, nearly all of them get their news from social media or YouTube. One in 5 social media news consumers say Israel’s war is a top-three issue; the same is true for 18- to 29-year-olds.

Yet if nearly half of young people think Israel is committing genocide, why doesn’t it have greater salience as an issue in the election? The answer could lie in the choices available to voters: Biden has given his unconditional support to Israel, and Donald Trump has done little more than suggest, “I will say, Israel has to be very careful, because you’re losing a lot of the world, you’re losing a lot of support, you have to finish up, you have to get the job done.” If those are your choices, the actual choice seems to be whether to vote at all.

Indeed, the other stark difference among the cohorts was on propensity to vote: Print readers and cable viewers were by far the most likely to vote, and those who got their news from social media or YouTube were most likely to say they were definitely not voting or were unlikely to.

Only social media users said they’d be more likely to support a candidate who supported Palestinians (33-19 percent). Just 15 percent of cable news viewers said the same, even though 31 percent of cable viewers agreed that Israel was committing genocide against Palestinians.

You can watch a segment on the survey here.

Speaking of people who get their news from podcasts: In the most recent episode of Deconstructed, I interviewed a Dallas spine surgeon, Mohammed Khaleel, who just returned from a medical mission to Gaza. During his week on the ground, he worked at the European Hospital in Khan Younis, effectively the only hospital still functioning. It’s worth hearing his account first hand, and you can find it by searching “Deconstructed” or my name on any podcast platform.


Ryan Grim is The Intercept’s D.C. Bureau Chief and the host of the podcast Deconstructed. He authors the newsletter Politics With Ryan Grim and was previously the Washington bureau chief for HuffPost, where he led a team that was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and won once. He edited and contributed reporting to groundbreaking investigative project on heroin treatment that not only changed federal and state laws, but also shifted the culture of the recovery industry. The story, by Jason Cherkis, was a Pulitzer finalist and won a Polk Award.


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