News outlets make up 12 of the 15 most politically polarizing brands in the US, and among the remaining three, one is owned by the president himself and another is a gun manufacturer.

The fifteenth is Nike, the sportswear brand that this time last year leant its support to the Take a Knee campaign with ads featuring ostracized NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Back then, Morning Consult’s initial take was that Nike’s net favorability had dropped across the board, especially among Republicans and Boomers.

Almost 12 months on (Morning Consult’s latest polling took place in July/August), it’s clear that opinions have have hardened among Republicans at least.

Nike has seen the greatest difference in net favorability between Republicans and Democrats of any of the top 15 most divisive brands, with a 42 point difference from 2018 to 2019; a spread of 43 points indicates how politically uncontroversial the brand had been before.

The most polarizing brand is Trump Hotels with a spread of 86 points; the only other non-media brand, Smith & Wesson, returned a 48-point spread.

It will come as little surprise to find the top three most polarising media brands are CNN (80 points), Fox News (73 points) and the New York Times (62 points) – and the gap is widening.

“In a way, it’s really corroboration of the narrative in the industry right now,” Joe Barone, managing partner of Brand Safety Americas for media buyer GroupM, told Morning Consult.

“The narrative is that we’re living in a polarized world, and media is both contributing to the polarization and reflective of the polarization.”

That is borne out by the observation that those media outlets adopting an adversarial stance on President Trump have reported commercial success.

Viewership at cable news networks CNN, Fox News and MSNBC has increased, according to Pew Research analysis of comScore data, while combined profits were up 50% between 2015 and 2018. Elsewhere, the New York Times has reported record print and digital subscriptions.

Barone believes levels of polarization may have peaked but he’s not optimistic that the trend is going to be reversed any time soon.

“We seem to be missing an independent objective news source that people can agree on,” he said. 

Sourced from Morning Consult; additional content by WARC staff