Let me recommend for your weekend reading, or for your weekday reading if you’re seeing it then, a detailed study by Bruce Bartlett called “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.” You can download the 18-page PDF from this site of the Social Science Research Network.It beats me how having ill-informed voters is a bad thing for the GOP if what the voters think they know keeps them voting Republican -- so let's look at the other apparent problem. (And note that we're supposed to take this analysis seriously because Bartlett is a veteran of the Reagan and Poppy Bush administrations, and has worked with Ron Paul, which means he's not saying this stuff because he likes the Democrats.)
... Bartlett’s accumulation of detail show[s] (a) that Fox’s core viewers are factually worse-informed than people who follow other sources, and even those who don’t follow news at all, and (b) that the mode of perpetual outrage that is Fox’s goal and effect has become a serious problem for the Republican party, in that it pushes its candidates to sound always-outraged themselves.
This is Bartlett's key assertion:
On mood, Bartlett includes this quote after the 2012 election from Lincoln Mitchell, a political scientist at Columbia:But here's the thing: In 2010 and 2014, Republicans did amazingly well at the polls. They did so well that they now utterly dominate American politics, apart from the presidency:
“Fox has now become a problem for the Republican Party because it keeps a far right base mobilized and angry, making it hard for the party to move to the center or increase its appeal, as it must do to remain electorally competitive....One of the reasons Mitt Romney was so unable to pivot back to the center was due to the drumbeat at Fox, which contributed to forcing him to the right during the primary season.”
Republicans now control the Senate and have their largest majority in the House since World War II.Why do you think this is? It's because Fox, along with talk radio, has found a way to turn rabidly partisan politics into mass entertainment, at least for the third of the country that's conservative. Fox and talk radio keep these people thoroughly focused on politics at all times. The conservative media keeps Republicans wanting to vote, even in off-year elections, when many of the rest of us don't bother. Fox isn't bad for the GOP -- it's terrific for the GOP.
... there are more 7,000 state legislative seats in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
... Republicans now control more than 4,100 seats -- their highest number since 1920. After taking over 11 legislative chambers from Democrats in 2014, Republicans now control 30 state legislatures completely -- and have full control of state government (state legislature and governorship) in 23 states. Democrats, by contrast, have full control of 11 state legislatures and total control of state government in just seven states.
Well, OK -- it's terrific except in presidential years. Democrats seem to have an electoral lock on the presidency. That's really bad for the GOP, right?
We'll see if that holds in 2016. Meanwhile, how will we recall Barack Obama's presidency? As an impressive first two years followed by six years in which nothing the president wanted to do could get done. How terrible is that for the GOP, really? Especially when the Fox-driven anger at the president led to huge gains for Republicans in congressional, state, and local elections -- a pattern that could easily be repeated in a Hillary Clinton presidency.
When Fox pushes Republicans so far to the right that they start losing governorships and state legislatures, then the GOP will have a serious Fox problem. We're nowhere near that point yet.