Analysis of ratings data from respected Pew Research and Neilson
shows that more Democrats watch Fox News than either CNN or MSNBC.
Fox News has come up on this Blog several times. The data in this posting sheds more light on the situation.
THE PIE CHARTS ARE NOT TOO SURPRISING
The first pie chart shows the distribution of the MSNBC audience. As one would expect, 45% are self-declared Democrats and only 18% are Republicans. The remainder are Independents (27%) and "Don't know" (10%).
The second pie does the same for CNN, with the only surprise being that a higher proportion of Democrats (51%) watch CNN than MSNBC. 18% of Republicans watch CNN.
The third pie does the same for Fox News. 39% of their viewers claim to be Republicans and 33% Democrats.
It might be surprising to see the Fox News "balance" between Republicans and Democrats. 39/33 = 1.18. MSNBC has a balance between Democrats and Republicans of 45/18 = 2.5. The balance at CNN is 51/18 = 2.83.
THE REAL SURPRISE
Fox News has a considerably higher viewership than either CNN or MSNBC. I combined that (from the 2009 Neilson data) with the data from the most recent (2008) Pew Research report, to generate the graphic.
The bars show the number of viewers using Total Audience (all ages) and averaging over the Entire Day. The Blue bars are MSNBC, the Red Fox News, and the Yellow CNN. The surprise is that more Democrats choose Fox News than either MSNBC or CNN. Indeed, if you combine the Democrats who watch MSNBC and CNN, they total only a bit more than Democrats who watch Fox News. If you consider Independents, more of them watch Fox News than CNN and MSNBC combined!
BUT, WHO IS "FAIR AND BALANCED"
Of course, what appears "fair" or "balanced" to one person on MSNBC may appear biased to another person, and vice-versa on Fox News. This is a subjective issue that each person needs to resolve for him or herself. My personal opinion is that MSNBC leans way to the left and Fox News a bit to the right. CNN appears to me to go right down the middle, or a bit to the left of middle.
The above data indicates that, given a free choice, people who seek out cable TV news and talk tend to choose Fox News over the competition. If you add the presumably "fair and balanced"-minded Independents to the presumably left-leaning Democrats, you find that more of that cohort watch Fox News than CNN and MSNBC combined. And that is true despite the fact that Fox News is available to fewer households.
BUT READ THE "FINE PRINT" BELOW
In the above analysis, I used Total Audience averaged over the Entire Day. I did that because the Pew Research data was for all ages and did not ask people when they watched cable TV. Fox News tends to have a slightly older audience, so had I used the 25-54 year old demographic, the results would have been a bit less surprising. However, they would still have shown that more Democrats and Independents watch Fox News than CNN or MSNBC.
The statistics for Prime Time are also a bit different from averages over the whole day. However, Fox News is also ahead on that measure. For example, for the 25-54 demographic, Fox News leads with 446,000 to MSNBCs 250,000 and CNNs 143,000. For the Total Audience including us old folks, Fox News leads with 2,036,000 to MSNBCs 753,000 and CNNs 621,000.