The day that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) formally called for a Green New Deal to rein in climate change, Fox News went to war. On his show that evening, Sean Hannity said the Green New Deal was a socialist ploy that would end with “broken promises, failure, poverty, misery among the people. This is a real, serious threat to our way of life.”
In the following days, Fox News aired more than three times as many prime-time segments about the Green New Deal as MSNBC and CNN combined. When a resolution on a Green New deal came up for a vote in the Senate, Fox again devoted more prime-time coverage to the plan than its rivals. The network’s reporting was rife with falsehoods and fearmongering, much of it obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez.
All that negative coverage, it seems, has turned conservatives against the Green New Deal. But the effect isn’t uniform. While older conservatives are going along with Fox, the kids haven’t taken the bait.
Let’s look at the numbers.
The more conservatives learn about the Green New Deal, the less they like it. This is especially true of Fox viewers.
In December, around one in five Americans had heard about the Green New Deal, according to polling from Yale and George Mason University. After learning it aimed to create jobs moving the country to 100 percent clean electricity, most people, including most conservatives, said they supported the plan.
In the months that followed, the Green New Deal made headlines and evening broadcasts, and Fox News went into attack mode, casting it as a communist plot to build rusty wind turbines on the graves of the founding fathers. By April, roughly three in five Americans had heard about it, fewer thought it was a good idea. While Democrats continued to support the Green New Deal, Republicans soured on the plan.
The effect was most pronounced among Republicans who had heard a lot about the Green New Deal, which is a big chunk of Republicans. Conservative Republicans were twice as likely as moderate or liberal Democrats to say that they had heard “a lot” about the Green New Deal, and many of them learned about it from Fox. Researchers said that devoted Fox News viewers were more likely to have learned about the Green New Deal and less likely to support the measure than casual Fox viewers.
This isn’t to say that Fox is responsible for turning conservatives against the Green New Deal. The plan was going to lose traction with Republicans after they learned it was a Democratic policy, regardless of how Fox covered it. And as it happens, only around a third of Republicans watch Fox more than once a week. But the network looks to have played a critical role in shaping public opinion — at least among older Republicans.
Fox News may be swaying conservative Boomers, but conservative millennials aren’t going for it.
Polling from Climate Nexus suggests this may be a generational phenomenon. [Disclosure: Nexus Media is an independent news service affiliated with Climate Nexus, a nonprofit working to improving public understanding of climate change.] Young Americans watch TV news, but they are more likely than their parents to learn about current events from online news outlets or social media. Old Americans are more likely say television is the mainstay of their media diet. But seniors are divided in what they watch. Older Democrats tend to prefer broadcast news, like ABC World News, while older Republicans tend to prefer cable news, like Fox.
In March, Climate Nexus polled Americans to see how much they had heard about the Green New Deal. Older Republicans were most likely to say they had heard “a lot,” which is not surprising given who watches Fox News and how the network covered the proposal. Young Republicans were far less likely to say they had heard “a lot” about the measure, though they had heard more than young Democrats and independents, the core constituency for the Green New Deal.
Data from Climate Nexus further shows that declining Republican support is a generational phenomenon. Young Republicans grew a little more skeptical of the Green New Deal, but their parents and especially their grandparents revolted against the idea. Between December and March, the number of Republicans over 55 who strongly opposed the measure nearly tripled.
It makes sense that young Republicans would lend credence to an ambitious plan to tackle climate. They are more likely to worry about climate change and more likely to prioritize the issue than older Republicans, researchers said. What stands is not that conservative millennials like the Green New Deal more than conservative Boomers, but that conservative millennials continued, more or less, to support the policy while Boomers decided it was a socialist plot.
This, in short, is the Fox News effect. It’s why champions of the Green New Deal face an uphill battle with older Republicans, and it’s why it is so critical for them to reach young Democrats and independents, who are the least likely to have heard about the measure.
Jeremy Deaton writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture. You can follow him @deaton_jeremy.