Instructive March Polls for 2020: Day Three — The “FoxHole”

Author’s note: This will make more sense if you read Monday’s post:

  • Percentage completion of March: 84
  • Percent progress to February’s Visitor number: 80

This week I’m deploying a desperate attempt to reach February’s Visitor count by doing one short (read: under 1000 words) post a day with a theme: some kernel of illuminating information from a poll taken this month. Come check each day!

  • Monday: Trump’s Re-election chances — What do the polls say?
  • Tuesday: Iowa! — A look at recent polling for the Iowa caucuses
The 2020 Election Stat of the Day: Patterns of the “FoxHole”

Last week, Navigator Research released a March survey of 1,001 Americans using a voter-file matched panel. Its purpose was to see how four groups of Americans view politics differently based on their party and whether they watch Fox News as their main news source. While the purpose of its report clearly suggests a liberal slant, the statistics in the report itself seem reasonably balanced, and its results jibes pretty well with other surveys that dip into this topic. These results can also help explain why I so strongly disagree with the Democratic National Committee on a recent 2020 decision, more about which at the end of today’s post.

Here’s what the survey found about the proportions of the four groups:

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Though that’s a fairly accurate presentation of registered voters, the true instructiveness of the poll comes from how these four groups see a variety of issues so differently. Take these two:

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Though over half of the American population believes in man-made climate change, only 1 in 8 Republican Fox News viewers agree. However, if Republicans get their news from something other than Fox News, they’re more than twice as likely as a Fox News Republican to believe in it. (Note that neither the survey nor today’s PPFA post is evaluating the accuracy of man-made climate change — only each group’s propensity to believe it exists.) Clearly, being in the “FoxHole” has a sizable impact on their climate change views.

To be fair, though neither this survey nor today’s post make the time for the inverse, any Democrat who exclusively consumes liberal media would look just as partisan on such a survey. On the socialism issue, for example, we see even more polarization but in the other direction. If a non-Republican has zero grams of Fox News in their viewing diet, there’s only a six percent chance they believe socialism is a problem in the Democratic Party — a number that’s smaller than Fox News Republicans who believe in man-made climate change.

Here are four more issues:

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Two of these polls reveal how successfully President Trump has transmitted his paranoia — justified or not — to Fox News viewership. His “fake news” mantra has successfully been adopted by about 90 percent of Fox News Republicans, but, since it’s long been a Republican complaint about other news outlets, three-quarters of Republicans who aren’t getting their daily Tucker agree. (Even a third of non-Republicans, if they’re open to Fox News, seem to recognize the left-leaning bias of the mainstream.) However, these non-Fox News Republicans aren’t quite as nervous about the Deep State; only about half of them think U.S. Intelligence agencies are trying to sabotage his presidency. Don’t tell that to Fox News Republicans, though. Four of every five think that’s precisely what’s happening. (I wonder if Mueller’s absolution of Trump’s Russian collusion will help dispel that conspiracy theory. I’m thinking no.)

Four in five Republican Fox News viewers also consider Trump the most successful president ever(!) after two years in office. It’s one of the most polarizing questions; only four percent of non-Fox News non-Republicans agree.

Interestingly, the greatest gap between Fox News Republicans and non-Fox News Republicans was on the border wall question. Though about 85 percent of FoxHoled Republicans thought Trump should indeed circumvent Congressional appropriation and build a wall through a national emergency declaration, only half of Republicans who aren’t Fox News viewers agreed. Without Sean Hannity to convince them, this half seems to favor the three-branch system over the urgent calls of their President.

Perhaps their lack of support for this President on this issue might make them susceptible to RINO charges, but the survey found that wouldn’t be fair. Non-Fox News Republicans were still loyal to the party in the 2018 midterms:

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Though not quite at the blistering 95 percent clip of Republican Fox News viewers, nearly 9 in 10 Republicans who don’t make time for Fox & Friends voted Republican anyway. Still, Republicans not in the “FoxHole” are noticeably less approving of the President than those inside it:

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Though 9 in 10 Fox News viewers approve of President Trump’s job performance, that number is only 7 in 10 for other Republicans. Were the number 7 in 10 for all Republicans, the President would lose in an electoral wipe-out next November. The President can thank Fox News for helping to keep his overall support among Republicans in the 80s, which props up his overall number with the American public in the 40s.

I’d like it if more polls separated respondents into media-consumption groups, as clearly people’s opinions are affected by more than just partisanship (or, as is often shown, race, age, and education level). Last summer, an Ipsos/Reuters poll asked Americans if they thought Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. The American intelligence community says they did, as did Congressional Republican leadership, as did, according to the poll, a majority of Americans, but Trump constantly hedged on the question and, likely as a result of that, only one-third of Republican voters agreed with the intelligence community. How would that one-third have broken down if FoxHolers and non-FoxHolers were separated? My instinct, based on all of the above, is that a majority of Republicans who weren’t relying on Fox News probably trusted U.S. intelligence, whereas 80 to 90 percent of Fox News Republicans lined up behind the President.

Why is this important? It certainly seems that if Republicans are getting consistent access to non-Fox News perspectives, they’re more open to crossover considerations. With that in mind, one has to wonder about the prudence of the Democratic National Committee refusing a Democratic presidential debate to occur on Fox News. Citing a New Yorker piece that showed an inappropriately close relationship between Trump and Fox, DNC Chair Tom Perez said that the network is “not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates.”

True or not, he and Democratic candidates should show at least a modicum of courage, go into the lion’s den, and win over some of its audience. (For the record, every Fox News debate I’ve watched — and there have been many — have been just as fair as those on other networks, so I think Perez has unfounded fear and skepticism here.) These survey results show that Republican groups are a bit more moderate on just about every issue if they hear the other side. Hearing the other side doesn’t mean just a glance at a website or watching a few minutes of cable news while waiting at the doctor’s office, and it certainly doesn’t mean laughing along when one’s preferred media relays what the other side is saying. It means they need to see an unfiltered look at the other side, and what better way to do that than showing up on their preferred TV channel and articulating your version of the truth.

Day Four tomorrow! See you then.

3 thoughts on “Instructive March Polls for 2020: Day Three — The “FoxHole”

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