Since the 2016 election, the relationship between Trump supporters and Fox News has gained considerable attention. Drawing on interviews with more than 200 people and a representative survey conducted in the state of Wisconsin, we dive deeper into the media habits of Trump supporters using a mixed methods analytical approach. While we do not refute the importance of Fox News in the conservative media ecology, we find that characterizing Trump supporters as isolated in Fox News bubbles obscures the fact that many are news omnivores, or people who consume a wide variety of news. In fact, we find that Trump supporters may have more politically heterogeneous consumption habits than Trump non-supporters. We find that 17% of our survey respondents who support Trump in Wisconsin are regularly exposed to ideologically heterogeneous news media. We also find that like other voters, Trump supporters are disenchanted with the divisive nature of contemporary media and politics. Finally, we analyze the media use of young Trump supporters and find an especially high level of news omnivorousness among them.
About the authors
Sadie Dempsey is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She studies civic life, democracy, and social movements in Wisconsin and is a Knight Scholar of the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal.
Jiyoun Suk is a doctoral candidate in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She studies digital politics, social justice and activism using computational methods and is a Knight Scholar of the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal.
Katherine J. Cramer is the Natalie C. Holton Chair of Letters & Science and Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Visiting Professor at the MIT Media Lab. She is the author of several books, including The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.
Lewis A. Friedland is the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is affiliated with the Dept. of Sociology and studies the changing structure of civil society and the public sphere, and the structure of the emerging communication ecology.
Michael W. Wagner is the Director of the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal and the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he is Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is the editor of the Forum section of Political Communication and the co-author of Mediated Democracy: Politics, the News, and Citizenship in the 21st Century.
Dhavan V. Shah is Louis A. & Mary E. Maier-Bascom Professor and Director of the Mass Communication Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research concerns message effects on social judgments, digital media influence on civic and political engagement, and the impact of ICTs on chronic disease management.
We are grateful to the many people who shared their time with us for the purposes of this study. Special thanks to Monica Busch for extensive fieldwork that contributed to this project. Thank you to Kyler Hudson for research assistance. Support for this research was provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, a gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
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