Heavily opinionated content, a not-so-subtle political bent, and occasional yelling are common on American news programs. The latest news service to launch, Al Jazeera America, promises not to follow suit. Its acting CEO told The New York Times that “viewers will see a news channel unlike the others, as our programming proves Al Jazeera America will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news.”
Many media personalities are skeptical of Al Jazeera America’s journalistic merit. Critics pointed out the news provider is funded primarily by the Qatari government and is the sister network of Al Jazeera, whose coverage of the United States has been a lightning rod for controversy. Some even went so far as to suggest that Al Jazeera America’s U.S. bureaus may activate Muslim sleeper cells.
We at Upwave were curious what Americans thought of Al Jazeera’s journalistic objectivity. After screening out those who had never heard of Al Jazeera, we asked 8,546 people: “Do you perceive Al Jazeera America as an objective news source?” We found that only 18% of Americans viewed it as an objective new sources, while 31% did not view it as an objective news source. Over half of respondents did not have an opinion.
Different States of Mind
Respondents from Washington, D.C. were by far the most likely to perceive Al Jazeera America as objective (40%), while those from South Carolina were the least likely (5%). Groups by region, respondents from New England were the most likely to perceive Al Jazeera America as objective (22%), and respondents from the Plains region were the least likely (13%). Below is a map showing a breakdown by each state:
Seeing Red (and Blue)
As with many issues, “red states” and “blue states” viewed Al Jazeera America quite differently. In red states (those which voted for Romney in the 2012 election), 14% of respondents perceived Al Jazeera America as an objective news source, while in blue states (those which voted for Obama in the 2012 election), 20% of respondents perceived it as such.
Our results also showed that opinion varied significantly across the digital as well as the geopolitical landscape. We found that respondents using Internet Explorer as a desktop browser were a whopping 43% less likely to perceive Al Jazeera America as an objective news source than those using Chrome. See the full breakdown by desktop browser below:
Will you watch?
Just launched in August 2013, Al Jazeera America already reaches about 48mm of America’s 100mm television households, and is among the most significant investments in television journalism history. After seeing this data, we bet the network is hoping more Americans start to think like Chrome users in Washington, D.C.
Footnotes for our fellow data geeks