Over the past several years the label “mainstream media” has been brandished with heavily negative connotations. “Mainstream media” refers to the outlets that are seen to be part of the journalism “establishment” and thus, it is often implied, have their own—many times hidden or nefarious—partisan or elitist agendas. The term is particularly popular on some Fox News shows, where it is uttered in equal measure by guests and talking head alike.
But what outlets officially count as “mainstream media?” That’s what Pew Research wanted to know, so it asked over 12,000 Americans whether a selection of 13 specific outlets counted as mainstream media. The results were surprising in that Republicans and Democrats were broadly in agreement as to what outlets were mainstream. And Fox News? Bad news for its image: Even Republicans view the cable news network as part of the mainstream media establishment.
Here are some of the survey’s most interesting results:
- Almost 90% of respondents said ABC News is mainstream (ABC is the only national network news outlet Pew included in the survey).
- Just over 87% said CNN was mainstream.
- Almost 80% said The New York Times and MSNBC were mainstream, too.
- Fox News is also seen as mainstream with just over 73% saying it is. Interestingly, more Republican-leaning respondents said Fox News was mainstream (75%) than Democrat-leaning respondents (72%).
- Just over 71% said The Wall Street Journal was mainstream.
- Just over 61% said The New York Post was mainstream, too.
As you can tell, it seems like what people consider mainstream media also correlates to “traditional” media outlets—that is, print and television media. The survey revealed that a majority of Americans do not consider digital outlets as mainstream. Such digital outlets include HuffPost, BuzzFeed, and Vox.
You can check out Pew’s full Republican/Democrat breakdown below. And the entire report is well worth a read to see more granularity in whether people distinguish certain media outlets as “mainstream.”