CNN president Jeff Zucker’s assertions that President Trump’s constant battering of the network these past two months seems to have inflicted small damage on the network’s consumer perception appear to be true.
However, CNN’s perception is well below where it was trending the first half of last year, allowing MSNBC to move past it in mid-January.
Over the past several weeks, MSNBC’s perception rose 50% while CNN's has been bumpy. Both networks are scoring in negative sentiment territory while Fox News Channel is right at the neutral mark, with equal positive and negative.
The big picture — going back to early 2016 — shows the possible toll particular news events, and being the recipient of incessant Trump bashing, may have taken on CNN.
CNN is currently trending below where it was over the first several months of 2016, when all three cable networks were in a consumer perception dogfight.
CNN’s negative acceleration point happened in mid-October 2016, around the time Anderson Cooper interviewed Melania Trump, notably discussing her husband’s famous “Access Hollywood” tape. Also at that time, a local North Carolina Republican office was firebombed, causing conservative-leaning media to pounce on CNN for suggesting Trump’s rhetoric spurred the incident.
While CNN’s perception levels steadily declined for three months beginning in August, the scores fell even more sharply at that mid-October point, hitting bottom around Election Day.
Even a few weeks after Election Day, another hit prevented CNN from recovering, coinciding with its reports on spotting fake news and its impact on the election. CNN itself was the victim of a fake news scare in late November, when somebody tweeted that the network broadcast pornography instead of an episode of “Anthony Bordain’s Parts Unknown.”
Since these incidents, CNN has had trouble fully recovering.
MSNBC dropped from mid-October through Christmas, and so did Fox News Channel from early June through Thanksgiving, but neither fell as sharply as CNN. The decline of all three networks indicates consumers may have been fatigued or fed up with the non-stop coverage of the Presidential election and its aftermath.
YouGov BrandIndex measured CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC with its Buzz score, which asks respondents: "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”
Buzz: Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC