A new study has concluded that Fox News turned members of Congress more conservative in its early years.
The network is an increasing favorite of academics examining its influence over political life. The most recent study, which was first highlighted by BuzzFeed, comes from two Vanderbilt University professors and was prepared for a workshop at Yale. In it, the authors examined the effect they think Fox News during its first few years of existence:
Using the fact that the Fox News Channel was launched in October 1996 and it gradually spread across congressional districts in the United States in a manner unrelated to the ideology of the district and the incumbent representative, we show that there is a modest effect on elected officials' positions - representatives from districts where Fox News begins broadcasting become slightly more conservative relative to similar representatives in otherwise similar districts where Fox News is not present. Given the distinctive ideological content of Fox News, the effect is predictably largest among the more liberal members. However, we find no evidence that Fox News affected which representatives were re-elected or replaced.
The study focused on 35 different states where Fox News spread between 1996 and 2000. Previous studies have focused on the change allegedly wrought by Fox News at the town level, rather than the Congressional level.
The authors also explained how they could pinpoint Fox News as the source of the politicians' shifts.
Because members' positions may change for many reasons, we compare the average change for those that do and do not receive Fox News in their district. Whereas legislators who do not receive Fox News will be affected by systematic changes in the political and economic situations, those with Fox News will be affected by those same pressures plus the additional effects that result from the introduction of Fox News. If the entry of Fox News is exogenous as we argue above, comparing the difference of this difference allows us to interpret the additional change we detect among those who receive Fox News relative to those who did not as the effect of Fox News in the district.
Read the full study below.