Study: Fox News Viewers Hold More Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Latino Opinions

Americans who rely on Fox News or conservative radio as their main sources of information are more likely to have negative views of Latinos and immigrants than those who watch more mainstream outlets. That's according to a new study by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which found that "[c]onservative talk radio and Fox News audiences hold significantly more anti-immigrant and anti-Latino opinions." NHMC stated that Fox News audiences are “more likely to agree that Latinos are on welfare (56%), take jobs from Americans (43%) and have too many children (42%).”

These are all stereotypes Fox has pushed in its coverage of immigration issues.

The study, done in conjunction with Latino Decisions, explained that "[c]onservative radio and Fox News program viewers are less familiar and less favorable toward Latinos and immigrants on nearly every measure included in the survey," adding:

Only 54% of those who trust Fox News, and 56% of those who trust talk radio give Latinos favorable marks. That is ten points lower than those who trust National Public Radio (NPR).

News source differences are even more dramatic when evaluating responses to the term “illegal alien”, as shown below. The share of NPR audiences that rate illegal aliens poorly is 46%, compared to 70% of FOX News audiences, and 67% of talk radio listeners. About one third of NPR's audience rates illegal aliens favorably, but less than half of conservative media audiences do the same (13%).

Indeed, as NHMC noted, “language matters.” But Fox News has refused to abandon the offensive terms even as other news outlets recognize it skews public debate and reinforces negative stereotypes of immigrants.

Fox News' coverage of immigration issues is a particularly thorny issue among Latino leaders and even journalists at the network.

In an October 2011 study, Media Matters concluded that Fox News reinforced its anti-immigrant programming through the guests it brought on to discuss immigration issues. We found that anti-immigrant guests outnumbered those with a pro-immigrant point of view by a whopping 3-to-1 margin. And viewers who tuned in to those immigration discussions during a 14-month span beginning in April 2010 were exposed to derogatory speech about undocumented immigrants.

Just last month, a Fox News segment linked undocumented immigrants to the 9-11 hijackers. In another example, a Fox News Radio host compared undocumented immigrants to “locusts” that “devour the fields” then move on.

The NHMC study also found that one in three Americans falsely believe that at least half of Latinos are in the United States illegally:

First-hand knowledge of Latinos is positively related to evaluations. Those with more direct interaction with -- or knowledge of -- Hispanics hold more positive views of the group and its members. Those holding very negative views are often those with little direct exposure to Hispanic Americans.

“Latino” or “Hispanic” on the one hand, and the issue of illegal immigration on the other, are highly associated. On average, these non-Hispanic respondents estimated that 35.6% of all Latinos were “illegal.” Over 17% of respondents believed more than half of all Hispanics are illegal, while another 13.3% estimate exactly half are undocumented. Taken together, over 30% of respondents believed a majority of Hispanics (50 or greater) were undocumented.

Contrary to these beliefs, only about 18 percent of Latinos are undocumented. Less than 4 percent of the U.S. population is undocumented.

In a press conference announcing the findings, NHMC president and CEO Alex Nogales stated:

“The media is doing a disservice with coverage that is misleading the public about Latinos who live in the U.S. ... It is producing attitudes among non-Latinos that contribute to hate speech and hate crimes. We must demand that the media do a better job with its coverage.”

A NHMC report in August found that conservative talk radio and Fox News were responsible for fueling “an echo-chamber of voices, both online and off, that promotes hatred against ethnic, racial and religious groups and the LGBT community on social media web sites.”