Role of media in shaping people’s voting patterns in elections: Case of Fox News..

September 15, 2017

There are broad trends happening in media these days. One, lives of journalists reporting on sensitive political matters is in danger and two, how so called independent media is increasing taking sides with one political party and presenting its news always favoring the same political party.

Two economists have studied the second trend and shows how FOx News is influencing voting behaviour in US elections towards Republicans.

Vox reports the summary:

Fox News is, by far, America’s dominant TV news channel; in the second quarter of 2017, Fox posted 2.35 million total viewers in primetime versus 1.64 million for MSNBC and 1.06 million for CNN. Given that Fox was founded by a longtime Republican Party operative and has almost exclusively hired conservative commentators, talk radio hosts, and the like to host its shows, it would stand to reason that its dominance on basic cable could influence how Americans vote, perhaps even tipping elections.

new study in the American Economic Review (the discipline’s flagship journal), with an intriguing and persuasive methodology, finds exactly that. Emory University political scientist Gregory Martin and Stanford economist Ali Yurukoglu estimate that watching Fox News directly causes a substantial rightward shift in viewers’ attitudes, which translates into a significantly greater willingness to vote for Republican candidates.

They estimate that if Fox News hadn’t existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008.

For context, that would’ve made John Kerry the 2004 popular vote winner, and turned Barack Obama’s 2008 victory into a landslide where he got 60 percent of the two-party vote.

“There is a non-trivial amount of uncertainty” about those estimates, Yurukoglu cautions. “I personally don’t think it’s totally implausible, but it is higher than I would have guessed prior to the research.” And even if the effect were half as large as estimated, that’d still mean that Fox News is having a very real, sizable effect on elections.

Mainlymacro adds:

To some this will be no surprise (except perhaps that the research is in an economics journal). To paraphrase Obama, if he watched Fox News even he wouldn’t vote for himself. It fits my own account of how US politics has shifted so far to the right, and has become so partisan. To UK readers the obvious question is whether we can just substitute Mail/Sun/Express for Fox. In my view you can, and Brexit goes a long way to proving that. But explicitly or implicitly, the consensus view appears otherwise. Whether from left, right or centre, analysis of voter behaviour typically ignores or marginalises the role of the press. This and earlier studies suggest that is no longer good science.
 Fox and their UK equivalents in the press have an importance way beyond academic studies of popular opinion. The story of Fox News and Trump are inextricably linked, as is Brexit and the right wing press. When you can serve large sections of the population real fake news – news that denigrates particular minorities or ‘outsiders’ and pushes the political views of their owners – then tyranny becomes quite compatible with democracy. Governments wield the ‘will of the people’ against pluralism and the rule of law, all enabled and even dictated by media as propaganda. We have examples within the EU and on its doorsteps. We are not there yet in the UK and US, but we are getting very close.
There is plenty of similar action happening in India too. One does not know which news to watch and which to leave. Media is hardly the media it used to be…

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