Center study finds CNN and Anderson Cooper lead as America’s primary cable news sources about COVID-19; political stance polarizes views on cable media

October 8 — More Americans rely on CNN as their primary information source about COVID-19 than other cable outlets, and Anderson Cooper is trusted by more Americans than other cable commentators, a study by the USC Center for the Digital Future (CDF) has found.

The CDF study also reports extreme differences in views about cable news channels and commentators based on political viewpoint of the respondents.

CNN’s popularity declines, but still leads as cable news source

The CDF study, conducted twice since the pandemic began (April and June), found CNN continues to be the primary source for pandemic news for the largest percentage of Americans – 40% in the June study, down from 49% in April. Fox news held steady with 33% reporting the network as the primary source about the pandemic, the same as in April. The popularity of MSNBC grew in the June study – now 24% of Americans, up from 14% in April.

Anderson Cooper leads all journalists as trusted source

When asked which commentators are trusted sources of information about the pandemic, the economy, and social unrest, Anderson Cooper of CNN led among cable journalists, trusted by 47%. Chris Cuomo of CNN ranked second (39%), followed by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC (35%), Don Lemon of CNN (32%), Brian Williams of MSNBC (29%), Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC (22%), Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity of Fox (each 17%), and Laura Ingraham of Fox (10%).

Wide differences in views about cable news media based on political stance

The CDF study also found extreme differences in views about media sources based on the political orientation of respondents. For example, CNN is ranked as the primary news source about COVID-19 by 55% of liberals compared to 17% of conservatives, while Fox is ranked as the primary news source by 5% of liberals compared to 76% of conservatives.

Similarly, Anderson Cooper is trusted by 71% of liberals but only 15% of conservatives, and Chris Cuomo is trusted by 53% of liberals and 13% of conservatives. At the other end of the political spectrum, Laura Ingraham is trusted for pandemic information by 37% of conservatives and 1% of liberals, while Sean Hannity is trusted by 50% of conservatives and zero percent of liberals.

The Coronavirus Disruption Project

The first round of the CDF’s Coronavirus Disruption Study, released April 29, revealed many changes – both positive and negative – in relationships, emotional stability, and behavior since the coronavirus pandemic and safer-at-home restrictions began.

The second round of the study, conducted June 19-26, added new questions about political behavior and compared views with those from the earlier study about working from home, education, media, entertainment, shopping, and political outlooks.

The findings are based on the results of surveys of 1,000 respondents conducted in English from an online panel, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The Center for the Digital Future: revealing disruption for two decades

For more than 20 years, the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg ( has explored the impact of digital technologies on the behavior and views of users and non-users. The center also studies disruption in the lives of Americans and the corporate world.