After the launch of the impeachment inquiry in the House last month, there have been a number of new polls that reveal the extent to which Fox News viewers in particular stand allied with President Trump.

Two weeks ago, we reported on a poll from PRRI, which found that those who identify Fox News as a primary source of news were most likely to say that almost nothing Trump could do would prompt them to disapprove of his presidency.

Earlier this week, a poll from Suffolk University and USA Today found that the group most likely to agree with Trump’s statement that the impeachment inquiry was a “political lynching” were those who identify Fox News as their most trusted news and commentary source.

In each case, though, the causality is not really clear: Are viewers of Fox News more likely to defend Trump or are defenders of Trump more likely to watch Fox News?


Another set of data might help answer that question.

The Internet Archive captures closed-captioning for news programs from a variety of local channels and national networks. We can see how common certain words were each day on various networks to get a sense for how often different issues were being discussed.

Consider the term impeachment. All three major cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC and Fox News — have been mentioning impeachment a lot over the past five weeks or so. (The graphs below show the percentage of 15-second blocks in which the term is used during a day, and all of the graphs share the same vertical scale.)

When we consider the term whistleblower, though, there are obvious differences. MSNBC and CNN talked more about the whistleblower in the days immediately after the launch of the impeachment inquiry — days when the whistleblower complaint was first released. In short order, House committees began interviewing witnesses with direct evidence about the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine, rendering the whistleblower themselves less important.

Fox News, though, kept talking about the whistleblower. Reports of a possible second whistleblower spurred a spike in mentions on the network, often derisive ones.

Those actual witnesses have not been as interesting to Fox. They were two to three times less likely to talk about former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker over the past five weeks than were CNN or MSNBC.

Fox was more than six times less likely to mention U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who has emerged as a central figure in the administration’s efforts to cajole Ukraine into launching investigations that could benefit Trump politically.

They were more than four times less likely to talk about acting ambassador Bill Taylor than the other networks, even after his testimony directly implicated the administration in a quid pro quo. (This data is the result of searching for “Taylor" only in the context of Ukraine, in order to avoid other possible Taylors.)

Over the past week, Fox News was five times less likely to talk about Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman than were CNN and MSNBC — and when they did, it was not always positive.

As those witnesses appeared on Capitol Hill, evidence for an effort at a quid pro quo increased. But you would not necessarily know it from watching Fox.

Nor would you necessarily know how integral to the effort Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was. CNN and MSNBC were each about 3.3 times as likely to discuss Giuliani as was Fox News.

Perhaps the most remarkable comparison, though, centers on acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. When he admitted to a quid pro quo in the middle of last month, Mulvaney was mentioned far more often on CNN and MSNBC than on Fox News. During the days after he made the comments, CNN and MSNBC were more than three times as likely to talk about Mulvaney as was Fox News.

Again, it is not that Fox News is not talking about these issues at all. Nor is it necessarily the case that CNN and MSNBC are talking about them at precisely the right levels.


But it is illustrative of the point with which we began. If you rely on Fox News for coverage of the impeachment, you are a lot less likely to hear about things that have proved to be of enormous importance to the question of what Trump and his team did in regard to Ukraine. Extrapolate that approach to covering Trump back to the start of his presidency (as we have at times done), and the graph at the top of this article starts to make more sense.