POLITICS

Democrats Really Don't Care If Their 2020 Candidates Go On Fox News

They loathe the network but shrug at concerns about the party's presidential contenders appearing there.
Sen. Bernie Sanders shakes hands with co-host Bret Baier during a Fox News town hall event on April 15, 2019, in Bethlehem, P
Sen. Bernie Sanders shakes hands with co-host Bret Baier during a Fox News town hall event on April 15, 2019, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Most Democrats harbor a deep dislike for Fox News, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. But fewer than 1 in 5 have a problem with Democratic candidates choosing to appear on the network, with most saying they don’t have any opinion on the matter.

The often-antagonistic relationship between Fox News and the Democratic Party hit a nadir last month when Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said the network would not get to host a Democratic primary debate. Perez pointed to a Jane Mayer article that detailed the network’s extensive ties to the current White House.

“Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and FOX News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates,” Perez said in a statement.

The new survey found that nearly three-quarters of Democrats hold an unfavorable view of Fox News, with 59% saying they feel strongly unfavorable toward it. That makes the channel more unpopular with Democrats than the National Rifle Association or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and puts it roughly on par with Vice President Mike Pence. Only 6% of Democrats describe themselves as regular viewers.

Some on the left have argued for Democratic candidates to write off the network altogether.

“I understand the short-term incentives ... to appear on Fox News, but putting an imprimatur of legitimacy on one of the most destructive forces in American politics has long-term consequences,” Dan Pfeiffer, formerly a senior adviser to then-President Barack Obama, said in a tweet.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reignited the issue when he decided to do a town hall forum on Fox News in mid-April. He argued that although he believed the network was essentially a propaganda arm of President Donald Trump’s administration, he wanted to speak directly to its viewers.

“You’ve got to go into areas where people are,” he told HuffPost. “Working people need to know the truth, and that is that Donald Trump betrayed them, lied to them. And I intend to do that.”

Sanders’ April 15 town hall ended up reaching more than 2.5 million viewers. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is slated for one in May, and other candidates have also expressed interest in making appearances. Fox News announced Tuesday that South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was set for an upcoming town hall.

“We are going to talk to voters everywhere and we are going to meet them where they are,” Lis Smith, Buttigieg’s communications adviser, told The New York Times.

Just 18% of Democrats say that Democratic presidential candidates should refuse to make appearances on Fox News. Twenty-seven percent say that candidates should go on the network, but 55% ― the majority ― say they either aren’t sure or don’t really care.

There’s somewhat more resistance to holding a Democratic presidential debate on the network: 28% say that the DNC should not host a debate on Fox News, compared to 23% who say it should. But again, about half of Democrats weigh in with the polling equivalent of a shrug.

The debate over Democrats appearing on Fox News represents the latest battle in the party’s seemingly endless argument over persuasion and turnout ― that is, the extent to which Democrats should spend their time chipping away at the weakest parts of Trump’s base versus shoring up their own supporters and reaching out to the politically disengaged.

“Democrats argue that they need to go on Fox to reach voters who might not otherwise hear their message,” Matt Gertz of the progressive group Media Matters wrote earlier this month. “But the candidate’s time is the most valuable commodity a political campaign possesses, and using it to try to win over people who would otherwise be tuning in to the likes of Sean Hannity strikes me as a poor decision.”

Most Democrats, however, still say that the party should give it a go. Some 64% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say it’s worth the effort for Democratic candidates to try to appeal to Republican voters. Just 21% say it’s not.

Across the aisle, a roughly similar 68% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say their candidates should make the effort to appeal to Democrats.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted April 17-18 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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