Without Fox News reliably broadcasting conservative propaganda, Republican presidential candidates would have fared far worse over the past few decades — even in elections they won — according to a joint study published in 2017.
Political scientist Gregory Martin, of Emory University, and Stanford economist Ali Yurukoglu found that watching Fox News increases Americans’ willingness to vote for Republican candidates, Vox reported.
“Specifically, by exploiting semi-random variation in Fox viewership driven by changes in the assignment of channel numbers,” Vox explained, “they find that if Fox News hadn’t existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008.”
Translation? Without Fox News, “the GOP’s only popular vote win since the 1980s would have been reversed and the 2008 election would have been an extinction-level landslide.”
Along with Fox News, the Sinclair Broadcast Group — a company that owns a growing collection of local news stations affiliated with all of the major networks — is pumping out conservative propaganda.
Vox noted that while those stations might be affiliated with any of the four networks, “Sinclair does exert centralized control over the “local” television news broadcasts."
Further research from Martin and his colleague, Josh McCrain, discovered that "when Sinclair buys a local station, its local news program begins to cover more national and less local politics, the coverage becomes more conservative, and viewership actually falls — suggesting that the rightward tilt isn’t enacted as a strategy to win more viewers but as part of a persuasion effort.”
Not to say that Republicans would never win elections if Fox News went out of business and Sinclair suddenly disappeared; but, Republicans would be incentivized to “bring key aspects of their policy agenda in line with public opinion and display less indifference to the prevalence of scandal-plagued individuals in party leadership,” Vox said.
Regardless, one thing is clear: “Fox appears to be a decisive influence in making the Republican Party as currently constituted an electorally viable entity. “