Without Fox News, Republicans Would Be In a World of Hurt

A couple of years ago I wrote about an NBER study showing that Fox News induces people to vote Republican. Not too surprising. But now this study is finally being published, so it’s getting renewed attention. Are there any differences between the old and new versions? Well, there’s this:

Old paper: Were a viewer initially at the ideology of the median Democratic voter in 2008 to watch an hour of Fox per week, her likelihood of voting Republican would increase by just over 15 percentage points.

New paper: Were a viewer initially at the ideology of the median Democratic voter in 2008 to watch an additional 3 minutes of Fox News per week, her likelihood of voting Republican would increase by 1.03 percentage points.

Hours have turned into minutes. That’s about it. The basic results stay the same, as illustrated here in colorful chart form:

In 2008, John McCain won 45.7 percent of the popular vote. This paper is therefore suggesting that if Fox News didn’t exist, he would have won only 39.4 percent of the vote. That would have been quite the epic shellacking for a two-person race, right up there with Barry Goldwater and Alf Landon.

This seems a little excessive. For one thing, if the numbers were really that high it implies that Democrats would have occupied the White House continuously since 1992 if only Fox News had never existed. I’m not sure anyone buys that.

Still, even if the effect isn’t this big, other studies have confirmed that Fox News has a clear effect on voting while liberal outlets like MSNBC don’t. This means we can thank Fox News for both the Iraq War and Donald Trump. We can also thank them for their decades-long effort to weaponize the aggrieved white vote. Thanks, Fox News!

POSTSCRIPT: Why the focus on presidential races? There’s a lot more data available for House races, and it’s more geographically concentrated too. Somebody should do this kind of research to see how much effect Fox has on House and Senate races.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest