Saturday, April 22, 2006

One More Reason for Liberals to Hate Fox News

Betsy's Page Two researchers, Stefano DellaVigna of Berkeley and Ethan Kaplan of Stockholm University find a "Fox News Effect" that seems to be increasing the Republican share of the vote when Fox News moves into a market. Here is the abstract for their paper.

Does media bias affect voting?
Yes. That is why the MSM tries so hard to push the Liberal Line, and why conservative news sources like Talk Radio, Fox News, and the Right Side of the Blogosphere are so important. If people are not exposed to both sides, they may believe the lies from the left.
We address this question by looking at the entry of Fox News in cable markets and its impact on voting. Between October 1996 and November 2000, the conservative Fox News Channel was introduced in the cable programming of 20 percent of US towns. Fox News availability in 2000 appears to be largely idiosyncratic. Using a data set of voting data for 9,256 towns, we investigate if Republicans gained vote share in towns where Fox News entered the cable market by the year 2000. We find a significant effect of the introduction of Fox News on the vote share in Presidential elections between 1996 and 2000. Republicans gain 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns which broadcast Fox News. The results are robust to town-level controls, district and county fixed effects, and alternative specifications. We also find a significant effect of Fox News on Senate vote share and on voter turnout. Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its viewers to vote Republican. We interpret the results in light of a simple model of voter learning about media bias and about politician quality. The Fox News effect could be a temporary learning effect for rational voters, or a permanent effect for voters subject to non-rational persuasion.
I'm not quite sure what that last phrase "voters subject to non-rational persuasion" refers to. I would be more likely to believe that viewers of Fox News get a different perspective on the news that they don't get from the network news or probably from their newspapers. It opens their eyes to the possibility of their being another side to some story that is being portrayed in a one-sided manner.
That is precisely why the left does not want them to hear both sides of an issue, in a Fair and Balanced Way.
It may get them thinking about media bias. It may help energize half-hearted Republicans to get out and vote when previously they were willing to sit an election out. Given that Fox's overall viewership is small when compared to the three major networks, it's a pretty astounding effect.

Now, just imagine if Fox's share were to increase. That must make some Democrats shudder.

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