Where's Our Fox News?
by Jonathan Singer, Sat May 06, 2006 at 09:59:33 AM EDT
I don't watch Fox News. In fact, upon having cable installed a couple of months ago I put a parental block on the channel so that I need to punch in a security code if I ever want to turn on the channel -- a trick I learned from my brother-in-law who did not want his conservative father watching FNC when he came over to his house. Turns out my brother-in-law and I are fairly wise.
Washington Post columnist Richard Morin (via Political Wire) reported this week on a recent study by a couple of economists that found that watching Fox News may have palpable effects on one's voting patterns -- an effect that in the macro may have helped change the results of at least one close election.
We report. You decide. Does President Bush owe his controversial win in 2000 to Fox cable television news?
Yes, suggest data collected by two economists who found that the growth of the Fox cable news network in the late 1990s may have significantly boosted the Republican Party's share of the vote in the 2000 election and delivered Florida to Bush.
"Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its audience to shift its voting behavior towards the Republican Party, a sizable media persuasion effect," said Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California at Berkely and Ethan Kaplan of Stockholm University.
In Florida alone, they estimate, the Fox effect may have produced more than 10,000 additional votes for Bush -- clearly a decisive factor in a state he carried by fewer than 600 votes.
The first lesson to learn from this study might be to follow the lead of my brother-in-law and stick a parental block on Fox News -- particularly if you have children of impressionable ages. There's little worse than waking up one day and finding out that your son or daughter has become a raging conservative (a la Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You), so shielding your children from FNC might not be the worst idea in the world.
But the larger lesson from this piece is that there is severe unbalance in cable news. While the Republican Party has a channel that is wooing voters over to its side, the Democratic Party is clearly lacking in such critical infrastructure -- not to mention the fact that there is a clear dearth of progressive voices in political television.
If progressives are serious about retaking the reins of power in this country -- not just marginally, narrowly winning an election here or there, but coming to possess the type of power the GOP currently wields in Washington -- they must build the requisite infrastructure. The Center for American Progress, Air America and other such endeavors (yes, including the progressive blogosphere) are good starts, but they must only be thought of as a start. Until the infrastructure of the Democratic Party and its allies is even comparable with that of the GOP (I'm not talking parity here, only competitiveness), it's going to be extremely difficult for institutional change to be enacted in this country.