The Fox Effect: Environment And Tea Party Edition

Blog ››› ››› ARI RABIN-HAVT

The League of Conservation Voters released a poll last week asking, "Do you support or oppose the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requiring reductions in carbon emissions from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming pollution?"

The crosstabs, obtained by Media Matters, are illuminating. Seventy-one percent of Americans supported EPA action. Even a majority of Republicans, 54 percent, were in support of these regulations. Two groups that did not show majority support were those who rely primarily on Fox for television news and information -- 49 percent of whom supported these regulations -- and Tea Party supporters -- 45 percent of whom supported the regulations. Among non-tea party members of the GOP? 70 percent were supportive.

This is no coincidence. Fox News' audience and the Tea Party are essentially one.

Roger Ailes's pronouncement to Howard Kurtz that Fox News was making "course correction" made headlines across the web yesterday. However, his efforts will be hampered by the audience he built. According to Kurtz, "privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama's election, but, as the Tea Party's popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream."

This move will be nearly impossible as the core of the network's audience consider themselves members of the Tea Party. According the LCV poll, 59 percent of those who consider Fox News the television outlet where they receive most of their "information about current and political events" also consider themselves to be supporters of the Tea Party, compared with 10 percent for CNN, 13 percent for MSNBC, and 15 percent for network news (NBC, ABC, CBS). Similarly, 60 percent of Tea Party say that they get most of their news and information from Fox, compared to 6 percent for CNN, and 3 percent for MSNBC.

These results should come as no surprise. The network ran more than 100 commercials disguised as network promotions in the 10 days leading up to the first major round of Tea Party protests in April 2009. That was just the beginning. Fox personalities promoted the events on their shows, directed viewers to Tea Party websites, appeared at rallies, and -- in at least one instance -- helped fire up the crowd before a live Fox report.

And Fox has worked hard to solidify its Tea Party audience's opposition to climate regulations. A June Media Matters report revealed that more the 80 percent guest appearances on Fox News and Fox Business to discuss the proposed EPA regulations were made by people who opposed them. In 2009, a top Fox executive directed the network's journalists to cast doubt on climate science.

As much as they try to run from it, Roger Ailes and Fox unleashed this monster. It will now be impossible to put back in its box.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change, Energy
Fox News Channel, Fox Business
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