A new working paper argues that former President George W. Bush’s popular vote total would have been 1.6 percentage points lower in his race against former Vice President Al Gore if Fox had not launched four years earlier. The paper provides new evidence that Fox and MSNBC have a real influence on how their audiences are likely to vote.
Cass Sunstein declares that the study authors’ “evidence is the most compelling to date that cable news has a major influence on viewers”:
The researchers estimate that in 2004 and 2008, if there had been no Fox News on cable television, the Republican vote share (as measured by voters’ expressed intentions) would have been 4 percentage points lower. And if MSNBC had had CNN’s more moderate ideology, the Republican share of the 2008 presidential vote intention would have been about 3 percentage points higher. (In general, Fox has more success in converting viewers than MSNBC does; it also has a much larger audience.)
Drum wonders why Fox is better than MSNBC at persuading viewers:
I’ve always believed that conservatives in general, and Fox in particular, are better persuaders than liberals, and this study seems to confirm that. But why? Is Fox’s conservatism simply more consistent throughout the day, thus making it more effective? Is there something about the particular way Fox pushes hot buttons that makes it more effective at persuading folks near the center? Or is Fox just average, and MSNBC is unusually poor at persuading people? I can easily believe, for example, that Rachel Maddow’s snark-based approach persuades very few conservative leaners to switch sides.