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.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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