Conservative media is one of the most consequential but least quantified drivers of the Donald Trump era.
Its cable news programming, in particular, is often an alternate universe in which Trump’s controversies effectively don’t exist or are all part of a vast conspiracy against him. And as the Dominion defamation lawsuit against Fox News reinforced, the inhabitants of this alternate universe go to great lengths to cater to a man who has an extremely devoted base, demands loyalty and often combines those two to punish people who fail to heed him sufficiently.
But within conservative media, there are differences regarding Trump. And a new poll provides some of the most interesting data yet on that front.
While polls often ask people what their favorite media outlet is and then report the results accordingly, the CNN-University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll asked people to name multiple media sources on which they rely.
One of the biggest takeaways is that, for all the effort Fox made to cater to Trump after the 2020 election, its audience isn’t nearly as devoted to Trump as some other outlets’ viewers and listeners are.
At the top of that list? Newsmax — and Joe Rogan.
While 43 percent of likely New Hampshire GOP primary voters who watch Fox News and 45 percent of conservative radio listeners say they’re voting for Trump in the GOP primary — similar to his overall share of 39 percent — those numbers rise to 65 percent for Rogan’s listeners and a remarkable 76 percent of Newsmax viewers.
(More than 9 in 10 Rogan listeners who are likely to vote in the New Hampshire GOP primary say they are voting for either Trump or businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.)
Newsmax viewers are also significantly more favorable toward Trump. While 64 percent of likely GOP voters who watch Fox have a favorable view of Trump, 95 percent of Newsmax viewers do.
These differences also show up in the general election. While Fox viewers overwhelmingly favor Republicans in almost every potential 2024 matchup by similar margins — whether the nominee would be Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or someone else — that’s not so much the case with other outlets.
Trump and DeSantis both lead Biden by about 70 points with Fox viewers. But among Newsmax viewers, Trump leads by 93 points, while DeSantis leads by 69. Among Rogan listeners, Trump leads by 84 points, while DeSantis leads by 61.
In each case, a significant number of people in the DeSantis-Biden matchups volunteered that they would instead vote for Trump despite his not being on the ballot — 27 percent of Newsmax viewers and 23 percent of Rogan listeners. (Just 7 percent of Fox viewers said the same.)
That doesn’t mean they would actually write Trump in on Election Day, but it is indicative of the level of passion for Trump.
The numbers in Rogan’s case are particularly striking because he has taken care to distance himself from Trump — Trump the man, at least. He won’t invite Trump on his podcast and said last year: “I’m not a Trump supporter in any way, shape or form.” He has also described himself in some ways as a “bleeding heart liberal.” But he urged listeners to vote Republican in the 2022 election, and his brand of conspiratorial programming clearly speaks to a large swath of today’s conservative movement.
Previous polling has shown Rogan’s audience leans to the right, though not to this extent.
Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy has also argued that his outlet isn’t “Trump TV” and isn’t trying to be, but these data would seem to suggest that’s effectively what it’s become.
Fox hosts and executives fretted after the 2020 election that Trump-loyal viewers would jump ship to Newsmax and its even-more-Trump-friendly coverage if Fox reported Trump’s stolen-election claims too skeptically. Newsmax clearly gained viewers for a period of time, before its audience fell off again. Its ratings remain far shy of Fox’s, but the audience it does have appears to be in lockstep with Trump, and that matters at a time when Trump continues to flirt with turning his supporters against Fox and sending them elsewhere.