If President Trump does end up losing reelection, one big area that will be ripe for an autopsy is the role that Fox News played in making that happen.

A mammoth new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute helps underscore another way this may prove to be the case. It finds that Republicans who place great trust in Fox News say in truly overwhelming percentages that they are “not at all” confident that vote-by-mail will be secure against fraud.

This is precisely an outcome that Republican strategists worried about. Last spring, when Trump was pushing false and unsubstantiated claims about fraud in vote-by-mail particularly hard, Republicans loudly voiced their fears this would put them at a disadvantage in key swing states.

Those Republicans noted that Democrats were likely to request absentee ballots in far higher numbers. And they fretted that less committed GOP voters who were dissuaded from voting by mail might not turn out on Election Day, needlessly costing Republicans a way to lock down their votes.

Now it turns out that Fox News may be making that dynamic even worse.

The new PRRI poll finds that 39 percent of Americans are not at all confident that vote-by-mail will be as secure as voting in person, while 34 percent say they are somewhat confident and 27 percent say they are very confident. That’s dispiriting, but at least a large majority says they are very or somewhat confident.

But notably, there are stark partisan differences on this question, which isn’t surprising given Trump’s championing of the bogus “fraud” claims:

Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to say they are not confident at all that voting by mail will be as secure as voting in person (56% and 25%, respectively). Independents fall in between, with 38% not at all confident that voting by mail will be as secure as voting in person.

And the Fox News effect on this question is positively nutso:

Republicans who say they most trust Fox News are especially distrustful of voting by mail. Nearly three in four Republicans who most trust Fox News (73%), compared to only 44% of Republicans who trust any other news source, say they are not confident at all that voting by mail will be as secure as in-person voting.

Fox News, of course, has endlessly pushed the myth that vote-by-mail is susceptible to fraud. As Media Matters has documented, the network’s biggest right-wing stars have sought to elevate examples of fraud that fizzled, while also priming audiences to expect that mail balloting will be used to steal the election from Trump. Fox News has sought to undermine viewers’ confidence in the reliability of mail voting, and in some cases Trump has even taken his attacks on mail balloting right from Fox.

If the PRRI numbers are right, this is working beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. But is this actually good for Trump? Probably not.

Remember, Trump’s own allies came to realize that this might be working against them. Not long ago the Republican National Committee unleashed a wave of robocalls urging Trump supporters to vote by absentee ballot, assuring them that they absolutely could trust its veracity, a case they made by relying on an entirely fake distinction between absentee ballots and vote-by-mail.

Given that Republicans have a history of successfully utilizing vote-by-mail in states like Florida, it’s hard to imagine that this would have been necessary had Trump not spent months attacking it. Fox’s efforts surely aren’t helping in that regard.

Meanwhile, all this is backfiring against Trump in another way. Trump has made it blatantly clear that his attacks on mail voting as fraudulent are all about laying the groundwork to seek to invalidate as many mail ballots as possible.

As a result, Democrats have been requesting absentee ballots and voting early by mail in truly extraordinary numbers, rendering that scheme harder to pull off, and further reinforcing the Democratic advantage on this matter. Fox’s relentless promotion of Trump’s attacks may have further underscored the blatancy of Trump’s corrupt designs, stiffening Democratic resolve in response.

This has been a pattern all throughout. Fox’s relentless promotion of Trump’s efforts to falsify the coronavirus crisis induced him to further dig in behind that position, leading to the dire political position he now finds himself in.

And as the Associated Press reports, some Republicans fear the right-wing media’s obsession over Trump’s fake new Hunter Biden scandal will persuade the president that it constitutes an effective attack, leading him to squander more time he needs to win back the voters he’s alienated.

And so, if Fox News has also assisted in deepening the GOP disadvantage on vote-by-mail — and if Trump does end up losing in part as a result — it will constitute yet another way that Fox helped seal Trump’s fate.

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