Republicans abandon Fox News: Roger Ailes has turned GOP voters from their favorite channel

For the first time, Fox News is no longer a top-20 most trusted brand with conservatives

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published October 21, 2016 2:35PM (EDT)

  (AP/Reuters/Fred Prouser/John Locher/Frank Franklin II/Photo montage by Salon)
(AP/Reuters/Fred Prouser/John Locher/Frank Franklin II/Photo montage by Salon)

Since January, Fox News has seen a precipitous drop in its reputation amongst its mostly conservative viewership — falling to 50th place on a list of brands most trusted by Republicans over the past two years.

In 2014, the most dominant cable news channel was the 10th best-perceived brand by Republicans, according to AdAge. But in a YouGov Brand Index survey released at the end of February 2016, the perception of Fox News among Republicans had “declined by approximately 50 percent since January of this year” — to a three-year low.

And in a just-released 2016 YouGov BrandIndex ranking, Fox News’ position plummeted to outside of the top-20 for the first time.  

YouGov BrandIndex interviews 4,300 people each weekday from a representative U.S. population sample. Respondents are drawn from an online panel of more than 2 million individuals and survey results are sorted by respondents' self-reported political affiliation: Republican, Democrat or Independent.

While Fox News’ ratings have remained high throughout the entire campaign season, its brand began to drop during the feud with Donald Trump.

Following the first GOP primary debate hosted by Fox News, the GOP nominee was set off by a question from moderator Megyn Kelly and went on to attack the network that had hosted him for weekly appearances.

Trump’s feud with Kelly tarnished the networks’ perception amongst viewers who suspected an anti-Trump bias. And while Trump still found safe refuge at “Fox & Friends” and even had Fox News host Sean Hannity appear in a campaign ad on his behalf, the blatant boosting alienated supporters of other Republican candidates.

Then one of the network’s most veteran female anchors accused former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.

After Gretchen Carlson filed a blockbuster lawsuit against the Fox News boss, the network saw its biggest shake-up with the retirement of longtime host Greta Van Susteren and the ousting of Ailes — who went on to join the Trump campaign as an adviser.

So, just as a Fox News host was selected as a presidential debate moderator for the first time ever, its former head was prepping Trump for the debate.

“I’m disappointed in Roger going to work for the Trump campaign,” third debate moderator and “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Thursday. “We have had to fight back for a lot of years against claims that we’re an arm of the Republican Party. We aren’t.”

Enter Trump.TV. As Salon’s Matthew Sheffield’s explained, Trump will be ideally situated to benefit from the demise of the Fox News brand among Republicans. Reports since Ailes’ ousting indicate that Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James, who help run parent company 21st Century Fox, plan to begin shedding the network’s image as a right-wing media outfit in favor of a more serious journalistic effort.

Host Shepard Smith recently told the Huffington Post that Murdoch indicated after the Ailes scandal that he planned to make Fox News “the best news organization in the America.”

But a more mainstream news source is not what Republican viewers want. While Fox News’ reputational ranking went down, Republicans still despise both CNN and MSNBC much more. CNN and MSNBC were ranked 1,470 and 1,471, respectively.

“If you’re tired of biased, mainstream media reporting (otherwise known as Crooked Hillary’s super PAC), tune into my Facebook Live broadcast,” Trump told his supporters ahead of the third presidential debate Wednesday. According to the Financial Times, the nearly four hours of coverage had 8.9 million views by Thursday afternoon.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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