A recent study by Vanderbilt University scholars argues that the rise of Fox News, founded in 1996, has had a real-world effect by pulling members of Congress to the right.
As authors Joshua D. Clinton and Ted Enamorado write, “representatives from districts where Fox News entered became slightly more conservative relative to their ideological position on issues taken in the US House before the launch of Fox News in 1995-1996.” They go on:
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 authors looked at whether or not an elected representative changed their positions after Fox News came to their district between 1996 and 2000, and whether districts that got Fox News voted in more conservative members of Congress in elections during that period.
Correction: This article originally stated that the paper was written by Yale scholars — they are from Vanderbilt.