But a television network focused on promoting Trump and his politics emerged anyway. That was Fox News, which pivoted from some initial skepticism of Trump’s candidacy to a robust embrace of his agenda and presidency. Over the course of Trump’s time in office, we’ve repeatedly seen that Fox News viewers often exceed Republicans overall in the fervency of their support for the president. Last October, for example, we reported Republicans who identified Fox as their primary source of news were the group most likely to say there was almost nothing Trump could do for them to view him with disapproval. More than half of Fox Republicans held that position.
That exceptional confidence extends to Trump’s handling of the most serious crisis of his presidency, the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus that has infected thousands of Americans.
Data released by Pew Research Center on Tuesday show that those who identify Fox News as their main source of election news are heavily likely to say they are “very confident” in Trump’s handling of the outbreak. Two-thirds of Fox News viewers hold that position, compared with only half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Nine in 10 Fox News viewers say they are either very or somewhat confident in Trump’s handling of the situation, compared with 8 in 10 Republicans/leaners — and less than half of respondents overall.
Republicans and Fox News viewers are both about as likely to say that the media broadly has either slightly or greatly exaggerated the threat posed by the virus. Fox News viewers are much less likely than respondents overall to say that Trump hasn’t taken the risks posed by the virus seriously.
Overall, respondents were about 10 points more likely to say that the media overstated the risk to some degree than that Trump didn’t take it seriously enough. Fox News viewers were 60 points more likely to say that the media overstated the risk than that Trump wasn’t sufficiently concerned.
As we’ve noted previously, there are real-world implications from dismissing the threat of the virus. Republicans have consistently expressed less concern about taking actions aimed at halting the virus’s spread. In the Pew data, Fox News viewers and Republicans were less likely than respondents overall to see a major threat to their own health, to day-to-day life in their community or to the economy from the virus.
Only about 1 in 5 Fox News viewers thought that the virus posed a major threat to day-to-day life in their community compared with a third of respondents overall.
It’s not as though these data come from several weeks ago, before the threat posed by the virus was obvious. The poll was conducted last week, as the number of U.S. cases was spiking — but before Trump himself began to regularly articulate the threat it poses to Americans. When he did so, Fox News similarly shifted, advocating for more precautionary measures instead of broadly dismissing concerns about the virus as a political ploy by Democrats.
Two-thirds of Fox News viewers told Pew they thought the Democrats were at least slightly exaggerating the risk posed by the virus, compared with 6 in 10 Republicans and about 40 percent of respondents overall.
Trump’s television network appears to have had its intended effect.
Update: On a related note.
New polling on media attention and #covid-19 from YouGov and The Economist:— G. Elliott Morris (@gelliottmorris) March 18, 2020
% who say they are worried about the virus, by media they most pay attention to:
National newspapers (NYT/WaPo): 72
Broadcast news: 68
Local news: 57
Fox News: 38