Fox News viewing influences likelihood of voting for Republican presidential candidates

September 05, 2017

Channel surfing voters who stumble across Fox News first in their cable news channel lineup are more likely to vote for a Republican presidential candidate, according to a new study in the American Economic Review. Watching CNN or MSNBC, however, did not have a similar effect.

Greg Martin, assistant professor of political science at Emory University, and Ali Yurukoglu, associate professor of economics at Stanford University, capitalized on a previously documented quirk of cable viewers - they're more likely to watch stations with a lower channel number - to study the effect that watching cable news has on their votes.

While many viewers of Fox News, CNN or MSNBC may select that channel based on existing political ideology, some viewers may select a channel simply because it's the first news channel they hit while clicking their remotes, says Martin.

"If a viewer is looking for news and Fox News happens to be the first news channel they flip to, they may watch Fox News because of that fact," Martin says.

Some voters don't hold strong political views and may be more open to influence, Martin says. The average viewer who subscribes to a cable system with Fox News in a low position is likely to watch a few more minutes each week compared to the average viewer in a system where Fox News is in a high position, Martin adds.

The study used voter records and survey data for each presidential election cycle between 2000 and 2008 then compared individuals from that data to Nielsen data on the channel position of cable news channels in an individual's residential zip code.

In zip codes where Fox News had a low channel position, voters had a higher probability of voting Republican in presidential elections, according to the study.

"Watching an extra 2.5 minutes per week of Fox News in an area were Fox has a low channel position is associated with a 0.3 percent increase in the probability that a viewer in that area will vote for the Republican candidate in presidential elections," Martin says.

Martin and Yurukoglu wondered if Fox News might be more likely to get the lowest cable channel position in any given zip code, particularly in areas with more Republican voters, but that's not the case, Martin says. They found channel positions for cable news channels to be effectively random, he says.

So what might U.S. presidential elections have looked like without Fox News' influence on voters? Removing Fox News from cable television during the 2000 election cycle could have potentially reduced the overall Republican presidential vote share by 0.46 percentage points, according to the study. The predicted effect would be a 3.59 percentage point reduction in Republican votes in 2004 and a 6.34 percentage point reduction in 2008.

While complete voting data by zip code was not available for the 2012 presidential election, Martin and Yurukoglu used their method for available 2012 voting records and found the same pattern of voters being more likely to vote Republican in zip codes with Fox News in lower channel position. Comprehensive zip code voting data is not yet available for the 2016 election, Martin says.

The study's channel position method could be used in the future studies to examine the effects of specific programming on specific voting issues, Martin says.
-end-


Emory Health Sciences

Related Data Articles from Brightsurf:

Keep the data coming
A continuous data supply ensures data-intensive simulations can run at maximum speed.

Astronomers are bulging with data
For the first time, over 250 million stars in our galaxy's bulge have been surveyed in near-ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared light, opening the door for astronomers to reexamine key questions about the Milky Way's formation and history.

Novel method for measuring spatial dependencies turns less data into more data
Researcher makes 'little data' act big through, the application of mathematical techniques normally used for time-series, to spatial processes.

Ups and downs in COVID-19 data may be caused by data reporting practices
As data accumulates on COVID-19 cases and deaths, researchers have observed patterns of peaks and valleys that repeat on a near-weekly basis.

Data centers use less energy than you think
Using the most detailed model to date of global data center energy use, researchers found that massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept energy use roughly flat over the past decade.

Storing data in music
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for embedding data in music and transmitting it to a smartphone.

Life data economics: calling for new models to assess the value of human data
After the collapse of the blockchain bubble a number of research organisations are developing platforms to enable individual ownership of life data and establish the data valuation and pricing models.

Geoscience data group urges all scientific disciplines to make data open and accessible
Institutions, science funders, data repositories, publishers, researchers and scientific societies from all scientific disciplines must work together to ensure all scientific data are easy to find, access and use, according to a new commentary in Nature by members of the Enabling FAIR Data Steering Committee.

Democratizing data science
MIT researchers are hoping to advance the democratization of data science with a new tool for nonstatisticians that automatically generates models for analyzing raw data.

Getting the most out of atmospheric data analysis
An international team including researchers from Kanazawa University used a new approach to analyze an atmospheric data set spanning 18 years for the investigation of new-particle formation.

Read More: Data News and Data Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.