Foxing the elephant


Diamond Member
Jul 11, 2004
Long article....But it gave me a chuckle:gang1:

Are Republicans gaining votes because of Fox News? A study says that's likely
Oct. 29, 2006. 01:00 AM
Last week on The Oreilly Factor, the high-flying Fox News Channel's most popular show, ABC News political director Mark Halperin confessed to a left-wing bias in many of the old, establishment television and print media, to the absolute delight of liberal-baiting host Bill Oreilly.

"So you're admitting... maybe your own network tilts to the left?" a smiling Oreilly asked, relishing the moment.

"If I were a conservative," Halperin replied, "I understand why I would feel suspicious that I was not going to get a fair break at the end of an election. We've got to make sure we do better so the conservatives don't have to be concerned about that. It's not fair."

"I think you're absolutely correct," Oreilly said. "I mean, all I want is fairness in the media."

Finally, Oreilly gets vindicated for something he has been saying for years.

Except that few would agree that fairness is a virtue of Oreilly or Fox News. Even though he tells his viewers they've entered a "No Spin Zone," on the very same show featuring Halperin, Oreilly spread the spin on thick: "The left-wing press and the terrorists in Iraq have something in common," he said. "The terrorists want to damage the Bush administration, and so does the left-wing press."

This kind of opinionated exuberance surely makes for interesting television. But does it have other consequences?

The authors of a soon-to-be-published study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics suggest so. They claim, using empirical data, that Fox News's overt conservative-Republican bias actually influenced people to vote for the Republican Party in 2000, and to turn out in greater numbers to do so. They call it "The Fox News Effect."

"Fox didn't have an effect only for (electing President George W.) Bush, but in general in voting for Republicans," explains the study co-author, Stefano Della Vigna, professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley. "So one can infer that people didn't just listen and say, `Oh, Bush sounds good from the coverage on Fox.' It seems that Fox changed their ideological beliefs."

The Fox effect is pervasive enough that one can't discount it as the U.S. nears the Nov. 7 mid-term elections. As well, the authors say, it has implications on both sides of the border when it comes to concentration of media ownership.

Previous studies have shown that Fox News is to the right of both most other media and of elected members of Congress.

A 2004 study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press also showed that, while more Democrats watched CNN, more Republicans watched Fox.

Fox's salty-tongued chief, Roger Ailes — a former Republican political operative — has always called CNN "boring" and scoffed at accusations of a conservative bias on his network.

He recently told the Associated Press that simply presenting different viewpoints made Fox stand out from all the left-leaning coverage.

Despite this — and despite the channel's slogan, "Fair and balanced" — viewers will often see anchors Sean Hannity or John Gibson literally screaming at guests who don't share their conservative views, or keying on stories that, unlike its other mainstream competitors, highlight the liberal-conservative and, especially, secular-religious divide.

It is this premise of conservative bias that the study, done for the non-profit, non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research, begins with. Because the Fox News Channel was introduced to the U.S. in 1996 and adopted by cable companies on a town-by-town basis, the researchers had a perfect opportunity to compare the effect on voting in towns with access to Fox to those without, leading up to the disputed 2000 presidential election.

Della Vigna and co-author Ethan Kaplan found that Fox News increased the Republican share of the vote in towns with Fox by 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points. "That's not very large," DellaVigna says, "but it's still large enough to decide a close election, like in 2000."

Recall that the 2000 ballot ended up a debacle. It came down to Florida and left the American public hanging for more than a month before a historic Supreme Court decision ended the recounts, giving the race to Bush. He won by just 537 votes in Florida. The Fox News Effect, the study calculates, could account for more than 10,000 of the votes cast in the state.

What share of the non-Republican voting audience was influenced by Fox News to vote Republican? Calculating "persuasion rates" using data on Fox viewership and the pre-Fox share of voters for each party, the economists came up with between 3 and 8 per cent for those who watched some Fox News, or between 11 and 28 per cent for those who watched more religiously, DellaVigna explains.

The economists also found that Fox affected voting patterns for Senate elections, even though the network barely covered them, suggesting that Fox "appears to have induced a generalized ideological shift."

In addition, they found that Fox increased voter turnout, especially in more Democratic districts.

It is this last finding that Carleton University communications professor André Turcotte finds the most important, particularly for Republicans and right-leaning parties.

"The real impact of Fox News is not so much its ability to change peoples' minds," Turcotte says, "but to increase the mobilization effect, to convince and embolden the conservative base to show up at the polls and vote Republican. This can have a real impact on the outcome, because if you can change voter turnout by even, say, five per cent, you can decide an election."
Full article
Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see him ask: "Did Democrats gain votes throughout the 1950's-1990's because of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS?" or: "Did Democrats gain votes during the 1980's and 1990's because of CNN?".

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