How much does Fox News matter?

by on September 8, 2017 at 11:20 am in Political Science, Television | Permalink

…we first propose a new instrument for exposure to media bias to complement estimates based on news channel availability: the channel positions of news channels in cable television lineups. The channel position is the ordinal position of news channels in the cable lineup. The assertion is thus that the Fox News Channel will be watched more when it is channel position 25 instead of channel position 65. We demonstrate that a one-standard-deviation decrease in Fox News’s channel position is associated with an increase of approximately 2.5 minutes per week in time spent watching Fox News. We estimate that watching the Fox News Channel for this additional 2.5 minutes per week increases the vote share of the Republican presidential candidate by 0.3 percentage points among voters induced into watching by variation in channel position. The corresponding effect of watching MSNBC for 2.5 additional minutes per week is an imprecise zero.

That is by Gregory J. Martin and Ali Yurukoglu, just published in the most recent AER.  Here are ungated copies.

1 Phil September 8, 2017 at 11:31 am

What?? This is a huge effect…

2 Bayes September 8, 2017 at 12:21 pm

In order to be published, a large effect must be discovered. Therefore, conditional on this being published, the probability that the effect is large is 1. Taking that into account, how much information do we actually get from published studies?

3 BC September 8, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Indeed, and the asymmetry between Fox and MSNBC is especially notable. If the mainstream media marketplace of ideas were “efficient” in the sense of presenting all relevant information and ideas, then we would not expect adding “alternative” media like Fox and MSNBC to affect voting behavior. Any relevant information presented by Fox and MSNBC would already have been incorporated into mainstream media. Instead, we can interpret these results as saying that Fox appears to add information that is not already in the mainstream marketplace while MSNBC does not. It’s a measure of mainstream media bias. Someone exposed to only mainstream media is 0.3 percentage points more likely to vote Democratic than someone exposed to all three of mainstream media, Fox News, and MSNBC.

4 Tununak September 8, 2017 at 3:57 pm

+1

5 GeoffBr September 8, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Your conclusion does not logically follow. All you can determine is that consuming and believing information shown on Fox News is likely to persuade a viewer to change their voting behavior – i.e., that its coverage is opinionated. There’s no inference that should be drawn about whether that opinion is more accurate that that found somewhere else. For example, exposure to, say, a foreign government propaganda network might have a similar impact – but that doesn’t imply that the network is identifying “bias” in American news outlets. It just means that it’s making different claims.

6 BC September 8, 2017 at 5:13 pm

MSNBC does not cause a similar change in voting behavior. That means mainstream media is biased in the sense of being redundant with MSNBC in a way that it is not redundant with Fox. Instead of using the term “bias”, if you just want to concede that mainstream media is more MSNBC-like than Fox-like, then that’s fine. The point is that Fox is not changing voter behavior simply because it is “slanted” (authors’ word). If that were the case, then MSNBC would also change voter behavior in the opposite direction. The asymmetry reflects asymmetric redundancy between mainstream and MSNBC vs. mainstream and Fox. In the marketplace of ideas, Fox is new information (relative to what is provided by mainstream), but MSNBC is not.

7 Anonymous September 8, 2017 at 6:09 pm

That is broken logic worthy of .. Fox News. I suggest you contact them immediately.

8 Tom T. September 8, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Hey, if all it takes is $100,000 in Russian Facebook ads to swing an election, there’s no limit to what media can do.

9 Anonymous September 8, 2017 at 6:10 pm

With a two party system balanced for near fifty-fifty splits, any number of small nudges become viable.

10 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 9:04 pm

But not the hundreds of millions that Hillary outspent Trump by.

11 Anonymous September 8, 2017 at 9:20 pm

They spent too much on people who can read. It’s true.

12 Anonymous September 8, 2017 at 9:31 pm

Not exaggerating.

https://twitter.com/Evan_McMullin/status/906190076761305088

Did you worry about the “sharia law” Thomas? Were you scared?

13 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 10:48 pm

Back to Haidt. Ignoramus moron Anon worries about whether I can read, believes in unlimited immigration of illiterate, hardline, literalist, Muslims, solely because they have brown skin, and that is what he has been told to believe.

14 Anonymous September 9, 2017 at 10:59 am

Boy, you are going to have a hard time in the coming months.

https://www.axios.com/why-trump-hopes-the-new-trump-sticks-2483311761.html

15 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 11:57 am

This means that Fox News is more effective at changing voting outcomes, but does not explain why. If the reverse were true, the narrative made by the sources of leftist’s worldview such as Vox, The Daily Show, Buzzfeed, Marilyn Streep, would be that exposure to leftism is more effective because their theories are better; reality has a liberal bias. Apparently, the opposite is true, exposure to argument s from the right is more effective in changing voting outcomes. To me, this seems to fit with Haidt’s research on the basis of liberal and conservative thought; if you are capable of understanding liberalism and conservatism, you are a conservative – everyone can understand and appreciate liberal arguments, but if you can listen to conservative arguments without crying, the superior arguments will sway you.

16 prior_test3 September 8, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Are you seriously comparing Fox News, which has a fascinating history, to a comedy show and an actress?

Because this link demonstrates what Ailes was doing, including links to documents – ‘The memo—called, simply enough, “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News”— is included in a 318-page cache of documents detailing Ailes’ work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations that we obtained from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries. Through his firms REA Productions and Ailes Communications, Inc., Ailes served as paid consultant to both presidents in the 1970s and 1990s, offering detailed and shrewd advice ranging from what ties to wear to how to keep the pressure up on Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the first Gulf War.

The documents—drawn mostly from the papers of Nixon chief of staff and felon H.R. Haldeman and Bush chief of staff John Sununu—reveal Ailes to be a tireless television producer and joyful propagandist. He was a forceful advocate for the power of television to shape the political narrative, and he reveled in the minutiae constructing political spectacles—stage-managing, for instance, the lighting of the White House Christmas tree with painstaking care. He frequently floated ideas for creating staged events and strategies for manipulating the mainstream media into favorable coverage, and used his contacts at the networks to sniff out the emergence of threatening narratives and offer advice on how to snuff them out—warning Bush, for example, to lay off the golf as war in the Middle East approached because journalists were starting to talk. There are also occasional references to dirty political tricks, as well as some positions that seem at odds with the Tea Party politics of present-day Fox News: Ailes supported government regulation of political campaign ads on television, including strict limits on spending. He also advised Nixon to address high school students, a move that caused his network to shriek about “indoctrination” when Obama did it more than 30 years later.’ http://gawker.com/5814150/roger-ailes-secret-nixon-era-blueprint-for-fox-news

17 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 12:28 pm

““One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or ”Justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree.”
https://theindependentwhig.com/haidt-passages/haidt/conservatives-understand-liberals-better-than-liberals-understand-conservatives/

Sheer ignorance and paranoia defines your ideology and its adherents.

18 prior_test3 September 8, 2017 at 12:39 pm

I’m not a liberal (my political affiliations are generally aligned with the Piraten), and the history of Fox News can be read by anyone, starting with the original memos – http://edge-cache.gawker.com/gawker/ailesfiles/ailes1.html

‘”A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News” (read it here) is an unsigned, undated memo calling for a partisan, pro-GOP news operation to be potentially paid for and run out of the White House. Aimed at sidelining the “censorship” of the liberal mainstream media and delivering prepackaged pro-Nixon news to local television stations, it reads today like a detailed precis for a Fox News prototype. From context provided by other memos, it’s apparent that the plan was hatched during the summer of 1970. And though it’s not clear who wrote it, the copy provided by the Nixon Library literally has Ailes’ handwriting all over it—it appears he was routed the memo by Haldeman and wrote back his enthusiastic endorsement, refinements, and a request to run the project in the margins.’

19 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 12:41 pm

I’ve already conceded Fox News’ bias, so I’m not sure what your point is (although I suspect it is non sequitur).

20 prior_test3 September 8, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Of course Fox News is ‘more effective at changing voting outcomes’ than a comedy show and an actress. After all, that is the apparent reason for the very creation of Fox News. Which was the point of my first comment, providing links for anyone to read..

However, this ‘non sequitur’ would be difficult for me to match – ‘ignorance and paranoia defines your ideology and its adherents.’

21 Art Deco September 8, 2017 at 2:13 pm

so I’m not sure what your point is

Neither is he. He squirts verbiage compulsively.

22 Lanigram September 8, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Prior_test3
>”…After all, that is the apparent reason for the very creation of Fox News…”

No. It was to make money. The rest of the media left that market unserved.

Thomas is right.

I say you would be well served by reading Haidt as well. His twitter feed is awesome, scholarly, nerdy, but not naughty. Heterodox academy is pretty cool too. Check it out and expand your mind. 😉

23 Art Deco September 8, 2017 at 2:12 pm

The documents—drawn mostly from the papers of Nixon

Ailes was prominently featured in The Selling of the President, 1968 by Joe McGinnis, a book published nearly 50 years ago. The man’s been about as stealthy as a steam calliope. Of course, so are Ken Burns and Judy Woodruff, to anyone paying attention.

24 Art Deco September 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm

The thing is, you add MSNBC, the matrix already has the 3 broadcast networks, CNN, and PBS (further damaged by Jim Lehrer’s retirement). You add Fox News, the matrix already there was CBN and EWTN. I think general public affairs programming is to be found on CBN and EWTN, but their talk shows (if I’m not mistaken) emphasize religious topics. (Of course, you could argue that the broadcast networks are in the entertainment business with a public affairs appendix).

25 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Thing is, I’ve never heard of CNN or EWTN.

26 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 9:07 pm

CBN* I’ve heard of fake news CNN. 😉

27 chrisare September 8, 2017 at 12:01 pm

What percentage of the population that doesn’t voluntarily watch Fox News is accidentally exposed to at least 2.5 minutes of Fox news per week?

28 mavery September 8, 2017 at 3:49 pm

People who fly regularly? People who go to diners for breakfast that have TVs on? People who go to bars before sports are being shown?

News (“News”) is pretty standard fair for public places that have TVs on.

29 Potato September 9, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Every DFAC in the states and overseas.

30 Endogeneity Taliban September 8, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Haven’t read the paper but is the channel ordering randomised? I doubt it.

ET

31 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm

It seems that they use the introduction of Fox News to a market as a demarcation for pre-fox and post-fox voting outcomes, while using channel 25 or 65 to estimate time spent watching fox news. Fox on Channel 25 – > 2.5 minutes more watching per week -> 0.3% more Republican votes. (based on my quick reading)

32 chuck martel September 8, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Twenty-four carat toro feces.

33 Rich Berger September 8, 2017 at 12:20 pm

That’s one way of putting it.

34 Rich Berger September 8, 2017 at 12:20 pm

I guess all that involuntary exposure to CNN is for nought.

35 msgkings September 8, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Not that it will stop you from bitching about muh librul media.

36 Sam Haysom September 8, 2017 at 1:21 pm

So people can only complain about cases of pernicious bias masquerading as neutrality if it’s effective. Something tells me you (one of the biggest complainers on the internet) don’t hold yourself to this standard.

37 msgkings September 8, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Oh look, Sam is wrong again in public.

38 Sam Haysom September 8, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Jaw still hurting from the cringe police right hook i see.

Stay down lil guy.

39 msgkings September 9, 2017 at 4:47 pm

You’re obsessed with me. It’s ok, you’ll do better next time.

40 Thomas Taylor September 8, 2017 at 12:29 pm

OK, then.

41 Bill September 8, 2017 at 1:43 pm

I get all my news,

Which is where Fox gets theirs,

From

Russian trolls.

I read it on the internets.

42 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 9:08 pm

Hillary has changed it to Macedonian sites getting hits in the 4 digits. Try to keep up

43 Art Deco September 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm

The corresponding effect of watching MSNBC for 2.5 additional minutes per week is an imprecise zero.

Suggest that Fox is nearly unique in television, whereas MSNBC is one of a half-dozen stylistic variants of the same perspective. Ergo, the marginal increment is less consequential.

44 mavery September 8, 2017 at 3:57 pm

I mean, that’s a way you can interpret the data, but there’s nothing in particular to suggest that it’s a correct interpretation, plus it requires additional assumptions.

“Fox is nearly unique in television” and “MSNBC is one of a half-dozen stylistic variants of the same perspective” are your opinions or assumptions depending on how you want to say it, and “the marginal increment is less consequential” is an assumption that isn’t explored. It’s also an assumption that being “nearly unique in television” is relevant; if people are exposed to Fox-like (Fox-light?) views view websites or social media, shouldn’t seeing those views on Fox be subject to the same decreasing marginal consequence you assume for MSNBC?

45 Art Deco September 8, 2017 at 6:43 pm

It’s a hypothesis stated in a blog comment. Lighten up.

46 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 9:11 pm

Is CNN fake news and USSNPR closer to Fox or MSNBC, Breitbart or Crooked Timber?

“But Crooked Timber is right!”

47 Michael September 8, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Isn’t the causation backwards? In my limited experience (I’ve only really used cable directly in three or four markets, plus hotel TV in a dozen), but whether Fox or CNN is ordered first is dependent on the voting habits of the state I’m in. Republican states have Fox ordered first, and Democratic states, CNN.

48 BC September 8, 2017 at 3:43 pm

“Empirically, we show that Fox News channel position does not predict pre-Fox News political outcomes, including 1996 county level Republican voting and 1996 political contributions to Republican candidates. Additionally, Fox News cable positions are not negatively correlated with the predictable-from demographics component of either Republican voting or Fox News viewership. In other words, in areas where demographics would predict the Republican vote share to be high, Fox News is not systematically located in lower channel positions. And in areas where demographics would predict Fox News viewership to be high, Fox News is not systematically located in lower channel positions.”

49 Plucky September 8, 2017 at 3:13 pm

(caveat, having not read the paper) that seems like a pretty weak instrument, and ignores the distinctly strong possibility that cable companies research their audiences and assign a channel’s ordinal position based on their customers’ pre-existing propensity to watch it

50 Anonymous September 8, 2017 at 6:20 pm

If you believe everything on Fox, and treat it as objective reality, what could go wrong?

The test subject is failing rather badly in an oblong office.

51 Art Deco September 8, 2017 at 6:44 pm

The test subject is failing rather badly in an oblong office.

First, you need to get over the illusion that you’re a member of the ‘reality-based community’.

52 Anonymous September 8, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Amusing. You may now complete that by describing the Triumphs of said occupant.

Pelosi much?

53 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 9:12 pm

Conservatives understand liberals but liberals don’t understand conservatives. Haidt. Cheer up, ignoramus.

54 Anonymous September 8, 2017 at 9:19 pm

While I welcome the new bipartisanship, it is clear it is only happening because government by Fox news delusion failed.

Nancy has to help the poor guy out.

55 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 10:52 pm

Embarassing. Can you outline a limiting principle to immigration or present an argument in favor of a USA of 2 billion people ruled by illiterate 3rd world refugees? Good luck. Trevor Noah hasn’t delivered talking points for the logical conclusion of your empathy based moronics yet.

56 Anonymous September 9, 2017 at 11:01 am

Are you a Russian bot?

Why would you introduce utter b.s. like “a USA of 2 billion people?”

57 Evans_KY September 8, 2017 at 8:41 pm

Are you implying that the greatest network in the greatest country in the entire universe is a propaganda machine for the Republican Party? Get out! Faux News is yellow journalism at its best. A poison that infects the mind making its viewers belligerent. So the bigger question is how many minutes a day of MSM does a person need to reverse the damage or is it terminal?

I find the three major cable news outfits to be unwatchable. An ADHD nightmare. Ginning up controversies to increase its audience. Irrelevant interviews that distract from more important issues. Panel discussions that are meaningless. Similar to junk food, it is unhealthy and should be consumed in very small quantities.

58 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 9:13 pm

Lol. Why isn’t MSNBC as effective as Fox?

59 Anonymous September 8, 2017 at 9:18 pm

Easy. While they emphasize a left wing view, they don’t out and put lie.

Where do you think counseling for the elderly became “Death Panels?”

The right wing lying industry.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_panel

60 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 10:53 pm

Death panels are real, you turd, unless you have a proof of unlimited resource socialism like Tim Kaine’s loser Democrat Son?

61 Anonymous September 8, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Actually geez, the whole Obamacare cycle illustrates.

The right wing propaganda machine scared people silly about something that later, with more honest information, they decided they liked after all.

All that “socialism destroying America” was empty Fox News (and wider) b.s.

62 Thomas September 8, 2017 at 10:55 pm

Derp, read the paper you unfortunate maroon. If AA applied to 30th percentile Canadians, you may have made it to a 3rd tier directional state U as an acolyte of an aging communist who wanted coffee regularly.

63 Anonymous September 9, 2017 at 11:03 am

Trump has discovered that the Thomases of the world have nothing to offer. They are a losing dead end, politically, morally, and every other way.

That’s why

https://www.axios.com/why-trump-hopes-the-new-trump-sticks-2483311761.html

64 TheAJx September 9, 2017 at 2:01 pm

In this thread: A commentator named Thomas who seems to have had his feelings deeply hurt.

65 MattW September 10, 2017 at 7:11 am

The water the media swims in is pretty hard left: https://twitter.com/SteveStuWill/status/906670815315247104
So it doesn’t surprise me that any counter programming shifts votes the other way.

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