The February cable news ratings came out yesterday from Cynopsis, and they're pretty much as expected--everybody down year to year in all the demographic categories. Fox News managed to break even in the size of its total audience on a total day basis, but was down 7 percent in primetime. For the rest, CNN trailed both Fox News and MSNBC in every category except 18-34s, where they slipped ahead of MSNBC by a few thousand viewers. All of the above was to be expected, because last February was a pre-election month and news viewing was up all over.
I think the most interesting statistic in last month's number is the aging of Fox News' audience. It averaged 1,091,000 viewers over the total day -- of that, only 35,000 were between 18 and 34, both CNN and MSNBC averaged 40,000 out of just over 400,000 viewers -- that's about 1 in 10 for CNN and MSNBC and 1 in 30 for Fox News. In primetime it's even worse -- Fox News averaged 1,743,000 viewers and only 39,000 were in the 18-34 category (that's only 2.2 percent).
It's no secret that fogies favor Fox News, it continually produces two to three times as many total viewers as its rivals, but it's also no secret that a vast majority of its viewers are not measured in the Nielsen ratings since they are well over 54 (25-54 is the oldest demographic rated by Nielsen). Judging February's numbers, about 40 percent of CNN and MSNBC viewers are measured by Nielsen, while a little less than 30 percent of the Fox News audience is Nielsen measured.
If one believes, as I do, that the vast majority of Fox News viewers vote Republican while CNN and MSNBC viewers tend to support Democrats, President Obama's reelection hinged on the support of younger viewers. According to Addicting Info, Barack Obama won 60 percent of the 18-29 vote and 52 percent of the 30-44 vote while Mitt Romney got 51 percent of those between 45-64 and 56 percent of people older than that. Those numbers reflect a high degree of accuracy on the part of the Nielsen ratings.
The big question for the future is: Will younger voters remain Democrats as they grow older or, when they become fogies, will they also become Republicans?