Fox News is notorious for being the cable news channel that everyone’s crazy, old right-wing relatives go to get their “news” from, and the average age of their audience certainly supports this theory. According to new television ratings, the average age for a primetime viewer of the network is 68 years old — which means the Republican Party’s biggest propaganda machine is literally marching towards death.
The GOP knows that one of its biggest challenges is reaching a younger demographic of voters as the party’s core dies of old age. In 2015, the millennial generation surpassed the baby boomer generation as the nation’s largest living age group. This spells disaster for the Republican Party, because millennials overwhelmingly identify as Democratic voters. The Pew Research Center reported,”51% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 35% who identify with the GOP or lean Republican.” That means in order for the Republican Party to survive, it is going to have to start reaching younger voters and its biggest cable news echo chamber, Fox News, is going to have to follow suit; but neither of them are doing so and Fox is especially reluctant to change. According to TVNewser:
“Through Dec. 15 (which was the day of the last GOP debate), CNN’s median age was 61 years old for total day, and 59 years old for prime time (Monday-Sunday). MSNBC’s audience is two years older, at 63 (for both total day and prime time), while FNC’s is 67 for total day and 68 in prime time. For both MSNBC and FNC, that’s the oldest level on record in both dayparts.”
Cable news networks are hemorrhaging younger viewers and while CNN has attempted to attract them with a mix of documentaries and other shows, Fox has stayed the course and its primetime programs haven’t changed at all. Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, and Sean Hannity host the network’s primetime lineup and spend an hour each attacking the Democratic Party and minorities (and women and the LGBT community and poor people, etc. etc.). Their programs are perfect for the GOP’s elderly, white, Obama-hating base, but don’t exactly attract the millennials that the party, the network, or the nation need to survive. And that leads us to their next problem: Not only did millennials overtake baby boomers in 2015, but this new generation is far more tolerant and diverse. In fact, for the first time in American history, more than fifty percent of all babies born this year were not white.
This is important because Fox News’ audience is not just really old, it’s really white and, like the Republican Party, it refuses to change. According to NyMag’s Frank Rich:
“Hard as it may be to fathom, Fox Nation is even more monochromatically white than the GOP is, let alone the American nation. Two percent of Mitt Romney’s voters were black. According to new Nielsen data, only 1.1 percent of Fox News’s prime-time viewership is (as opposed to 25 percent for MSNBC, 14 percent for CNN, and an average of roughly 12 percent for the three broadcast networks’ evening news programs).”
When Mitt Romney lost the election to President Obama in 2012, the Republican National Committee started preaching inclusiveness and warning that it was the only way to win future elections. In 2015, we saw Donald Trump skyrocket to the number one spot in the GOP’s primary polls, by campaigning on a platform of hate that was custom designed to reach the base’s old, caucasian voters — the same voters that spend every evening in their recliners with their eyes glued to Fox News.
If Fox News and the Republican Party do not change and begin to target young, minority viewers and voters, they will become a distant memory. It may not happen right away, but as this country becomes younger, more diverse and less intolerant, the right and their propaganda machine become infinitely less appealing. The problem for both the network and the party is that they are trapped, neither can appeal to everyone else without immediately and irrevocably alienating their white racist base. Unfortunately for them, not only are their viewers and voters dying off, so is the hate they so frantically cling to in order to keep their base happy and that will eventually be their undoing.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.