MSNBC’s surging ratings fuel Democratic optimism

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by SueEllenRules!, Apr 11, 2018.

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Which news networks do you watch on a regular basis? (choose all that apply)

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  1. ABC

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  2. CBS

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  3. NBC

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  4. CNN

    0 vote(s)
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  5. MSNBC

    100.0%
  6. PBS

    0 vote(s)
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  7. Fox News

    0 vote(s)
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  8. I’ll watch anything other than Fox News.

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    MSNBC’s surging ratings fuel Democratic optimism
    While Fox and CNN slump, left-leaning hosts on MSNBC help the network reap a 30 percent ratings gain.

    Democratic strategists are seeing a new reason for optimism about the midterms: soaring ratings for liberal-leaning MSNBC.

    Fox News and CNN both lost viewers from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018 — dropping 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively — as did pretty much every major cable network, according to Nielsen. MSNBC, on the other hand, surged to a 30 percent gain in the same period.

    While Fox News held its standing as cable TV’s No. 1 network both for total day and prime time, MSNBC finished second in both categories, enthusing Democrats who see the rise of the network — powered by the liberal commentary of star host Rachel Maddow — not just as a reflection of energy within their base, but as a tool to help candidates in the coming elections.

    “You saw all the money that Doug Jones was able to raise online” in his successful Senate race in Alabama, said Democratic strategist Pete Giangreco. “A lot of that comes from people watching MSNBC and saying, 'Oh, this is an important race to me.' Same thing with Conor Lamb,” winner of last month’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.

    Meanwhile, though Fox continued to post strong numbers — with 1.4 million total average viewers, compared to 1 million for MSNBC and 713,000 for CNN — analysts say that some of its audience may be suffering from Trump fatigue. Fox News’ prime-time numbers are down 13 percent, and the departure of big names like Bill O’Reilly, who left in April 2017, may have played a role as well. But the network's opinion hosts have tied it so tightly to President Donald Trump that its diminished ratings may simply reflect that he is less popular now than when he took office.

    "Those rallying against any kind of incumbent power are going to consolidate an audience," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, adding that she was not surprised to see liberal enthusiasm for MSNBC rise and conservative fervor for Fox News subside somewhat.

    Indeed, in the first quarter of 2010, as President Barack Obama headed toward his first midterm elections, Fox News notched its largest audience averages for any quarter since it had launched in 1996. When the elections came around, Republicans gained 63 seats in the House, a total that Democrats today would be delighted to equal.

    “There is an enthusiasm problem with Republicans,” said Stuart Stevens, the Republican strategist who helmed Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.

    Stevens agreed with Jamieson that it’s common for the out-of-power party to experience an enthusiasm boost, while the in-power party suffers. And the first quarter of 2017, when Trump took office, was certainly a high-water mark for interest in the administration. And all of the networks, relatively speaking, are doing well. Although CNN lost 13 percent of its viewers from the previous year, its first quarter was still its second best in the past nine years.

    But the contrast between Fox News dropping 16 percent and MSNBC gaining 30 percent is notable.

    “I think there are a lot of people out there who are dramatically troubled by the direction of the country, and they would like to be reminded that a) they’re not alone, and, b) there is an alternative,” said Stevens, an outspoken Trump critic. “I basically consider MSNBC the ‘It doesn’t have to be this way’ channel.”

    Representatives from the three networks declined to comment.

    While Stevens felt that the networks’ ratings were largely a reflection of voter feeling, he noted that MSNBC is a valuable fundraising tool for Democrats and said more eyeballs on the network will help candidates. So did Democratic strategist Doug Rubin, of Northwind Strategies in Boston, who has experienced the bump firsthand while working for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

    “Back in 2012, when Sen. Warren went on Rachel Maddow, we saw a spike in social media traffic and small-dollar donations,” he said.

    Averaging 2.9 million nightly viewers, “The Rachel Maddow Show” finished the first quarter as cable news’ second-highest rated show, trailing only Sean Hannity and his 3.2 million viewers. Maddow actually edged Hannity in the coveted 25-54 demographic, 664,000 to 662,000. Overall, MSNBC’s prime-time lineup was up 30 percent in total viewers.

    Rubin added that someone like Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic House member who is challenging high-profile GOP incumbent Ted Cruz for a Senate seat in Texas, could be the type of candidate who especially benefits from exposure on a show like Maddow’s or Lawrence O’Donnell’s. O’Rourke has already posted big fundraising numbers.

    “My gut is he fits the profile perfectly for that,” Rubin said.

    Giangreco, a partner at The Strategy Group, based in Chicago, said, “If you’ve got an interesting candidate that’s got an interesting race, either because of who they are or because of who they’re running against, having a story done on MSNBC can really translate into a lot of grass-roots money.”

    Fox News still boasts four of the top five most-watched shows in cable news, according to Nielsen. In addition to “Hannity,” there are “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “The Ingraham Angle” and “Special Report with Bret Baier.” But with TV viewership down almost across the board, David Seawright, director of analytics and product innovation at Deep Root Analytics, a Republican media consulting firm, said candidates should pursue a wider range of media options.

    “These numbers show that Republican campaigns can't count on Fox News to reach their voters as much as they could have a year ago,” he said. “They are going to have to use data to find out where those viewers have gone in order to continue to reach them in 2018.”

    Stevens said that the White House has become so dependent on Fox News, particularly its opinion hosts, to get its message to its supporters that any decline in viewership should be of concern. “To the degree that fewer people are paying attention to what is to a large degree just a message from the White House, that’s not positive for the White House,” he said.

    MSNBC’s rise is reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh’s ascent in opposition to Bill Clinton’s presidency, according to Jamieson, the Annenberg Center director. As the leading voices against Trump, she said, Maddow and O’Donnell are creating a framework and language that are increasingly adopted other places.

    “They’re helping viewers talk the politics differently as a result of exposure, and that’s what Limbaugh was doing too,” she said.

    MSNBC initially passed CNN in ratings in 2016, as the presidential election season was kicking into high gear. Even though it has been under constant attack from Trump, CNN has strived to maintain its position in the political center, focusing more on reporting than the other networks and presenting views from both sides.

    “They’re balancing panels out, and that looks two-sided in a way that Maddow and O’Donnell are not,” Jamieson said. For those watching “to have their anti-Trump beliefs reinforced,” she said, MSNBC is a more natural draw.

    As news consumption becomes an ever-more-partisan endeavor, Stevens said he found it troubling that the two highest-rated cable television channels are news outlets providing such starkly different pictures of the world.

    “It’s a huge problem,” he said. “It goes to my view that people watch news to reinforce their opinions, not to form their opinions.”

    MSNBC’s surging ratings fuel Democratic optimism - POLITICO https://apple.news/A9F5GV3wUSj6-2lUEAosIGQ
     

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