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Study: Watching Fox Makes People Vote Republican

Reported by Judy - March 21, 2007 -

As various Democratic groups ponder whether to link up with Fox News for 2008 presidential candidate debates, Democrats should consider the bottom line of a study of the effect of media bias on voting -- Fox News helped make George Bush president by persuading Democrats and independents to vote Republican. As the researchers wrote, the "main effect of Fox News was to induce non-voters in Democratic districts to turn out and vote Republican."

The study, titled "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," said the vote shift in Florida due to Fox News -- 10,757 votes -- was substantially larger than Bush's 537 vote official margin of victory.

"Overall, while the entry of Fox News had a relatively small impact on the 2000 election, it may still have contributed to the Bush victory in the unusually close election. Moreover, this impact may become larger over time as the Fox News audience and diffusion grows," said the study, by Steano Della Vigna of the University of California at Berkeley and Ethan Kaplan, of Stockholm University.

Nationwide, Fox News probably added 200,000 votes to the Bush-Cheney ticket, the study found. The authors concluded that though the total number was small, "it is still likely to have been decisive in the close 2000 presidential elections."

To come to their conclusion, Vigna and Kaplan compared voting patterns in communities that had Fox News in the year 2000 and those that did not.

"We find a significant effect of the introduction of Fox News on the vote share in Presidential elections between 1996 and 2000. Republicans gained 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns which broadcast Fox News," the study said.

"Fox News also affected the Republican vote share in the Senate and voter turnout. Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 28 percent of its viewers to vote Republican, depending on the audience measure."

(The study said the effect was between 3 and 8 percent of its non-Republican viewers if an inclusive measure of the audience was used, but as high was 11 to 28 percent if a more restrictive audience measure is used.)

"Exposure to more conservative coverage, therefore, had a sizeable and possibly large, persuasion effect," Vigna and Kaplan wrote.

The authors of the study found that the effect came, not in Republican districts, but in Democratic-leaning ones. "We find that Fox News significantly increased voter turnout, paricularly in the more Democratic districts. The impact of Fox News on voting appears to be due, at least in part, to the mobilization of voters, and particularly conservative voters in Democratic-leaning districts," Vigna and Kaplan wrote.

They also found that the impact on Fox News viewers was that of a general ideological shift, rather than support for individual candidates, since Fox News actually covered very few candidates in federal elections, other than Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The study covered 9,256 towns in 28 states, amounting to 65.9 percent of the population and 68.6 percent of total votes cast in those states in the 2000 presidential election.

The authors also found that the effect persisted past the year 2000, resulting in a .2 percentage point vote share increase between 2000 and 2004, although that was not statistically significant.

So, if members of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute want to induce their voters to vote Republican, they should do all they can do boost Fox News' credibility.

The Nevada Democratic Party came to its senses. This study clearly shows that a debate on Fox News would be counter-productive for the issues of concern to the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.