Former Fox News contributors Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes decided to leave the network last week. The two have long been concerned over former President Donald Trump falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen. The publication of Tucker Carlson’s falsehood-filled “Patriot Purge” on Fox Nation, about January 6, was the last straw.
The Goldberg/Hayes saga is a manifestation of a larger trend. The audience of right-wing media such as Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network wants little to do with resisting Trump, even if that means they are resisting the truth. Republicans who don’t get news from these networks are far more unfavorable to the former President.
We can see this well in a CNN/SSRS poll conducted in August and September. In the poll, I isolated Republicans and independents who leaned Republican who preferred to get their television or digital news only from Fox News, Newsmax or One America News Network.
Almost uniformly (88% to 11%), Republican voters who like getting their news from those conservative media outlets believe President Joe Biden did not legitimately get enough votes to win the presidency. In other words, almost all of the Republicans in the conservative media audience think a glaring falsehood is true.
A majority of Republican voters (57%) who follow digital or cable news and didn’t list Fox News, Newsmax or OANN (e.g. The New York Times or said they didn’t have a favorite) as their primary source also falsely believe Biden didn’t win the election legitimately. This level, though, is far smaller than among those who like getting their news from conservative media. Additionally, a significantly larger share of these Republicans (42%) believe the truth that Biden legitimately received enough votes to win the presidency.
The difference between these two audiences, however, isn’t merely about views on the 2020 election. It’s how important those views are to their identity as Republicans.
Republican voters who prefer to get their news from Fox, Newsmax or OANN are three times as likely (57% to 18%) to indicate that thinking Trump won in 2020 is very important to what being a Republican means to them.
That is, even if a majority of Republicans, regardless of where they like to get their news, have untrue beliefs about 2020, those views are much more deeply held among those who prefer those conservative news outlets.
A different slice of the data perhaps indicates this better. Just 11% of those who prefer conservative media say that thinking Trump won in 2020 is not at all important to what being a Republican means. This jumps to 38% among Republican voters who prefer other news outlets.
Importantly, this demonstrates that the percentage of the non-conservative media audience who say Trump winning is not at all important to their GOP identity is far bigger than those who say it is very important. The reverse is true among Republican voters who prefer conservative media.
Now, perhaps the big question is whether this is correlation (i.e. Trump fans were less likely to watch conservative media all along) or causation (i.e. conservative media is causing people to believe Biden didn’t win legitimately).
The answer is likely both. Yes, Republicans who prefer to get their news from conservative media were more likely to vote for Trump in 2020 (99% to 83%) among those who cast a ballot.
But even among Republicans who voted for Trump, 31% of those who prefer to get their news outside of conservative media believe Biden legitimately won. This is a low percentage, but it’s significantly higher than the 10% of those who like getting their news from Fox News, Newsmax or OANN.
Likewise, the percentage of Republican Trump voters who prefer their news from non-conservative outlets and think Trump winning in 2020 is very important to the Republican identity (21%) is only about a third of what it is among those who prefer to get their news from conservative media (60%).
This shouldn’t be surprising, given how much some in conservative media have played up the idea that Biden didn’t win legitimately.
Going forward, it seems unlikely that the differing views on Trump among Republicans by news consumption choice will dissipate. The Republicans who prefer to get their news from Fox News, Newsmax or One America News Network remain far bigger fans of Trump than those who don’t.
A large 53% of Republican voters who get their news from the conservative media say supporting Trump is very important to being a Republican. It’s just 21% among those who get their media from other television or digital sources.
Another way to gauge this is by examining those who argue that backing Trump is not at all important to their Republican identity. It can be argued that these are some of the most ardent anti-Trump Republicans.
Just 8% of Republican voters who prefer conservative media think it’s not important at all to support Trump. Among those who prefer to get their news from other sources, it’s 35%.
The anti-Trump resistance within the GOP is low no matter where you go, but it’s far lower among those who like conservative media.
Looking ahead to the 2024 presidential primary, any Republican looking to beat Trump (assuming he runs) will likely need to dominate among those who don’t prefer conservative media. It probably won’t be enough to win. This lane is likely a minority of Republicans (20% to 40% under the most generous definition). Without it, though, any challenge to Trump will have a very hard time succeeding.