A new survey shows just how key Fox News is to Donald Trump’s support. The poll, from the Public Religion Research Institute, was taken before the impeachment inquiry was announced, and, given the shift in views on impeachment in recent weeks, it’s not a useful gauge of views on that issue right now. But it’s a hugely important reminder both of what’s going on in today’s Republican Party and of how we should understand Fox News. On issue after issue, the poll found big gaps between Republicans whose primary news source is Fox and white evangelicals on one hand, and Republicans who are neither regular Fox viewers nor white evangelicals on the other.
On impeachment—again, a number that will have shifted since the poll was done in mid-September—94% of Republicans overall opposed impeachment and removal. But among Fox News viewers, that number was 98%, and among white evangelicals it was 99%.
The Fox gap is much bigger on other questions about Trump. Do people believe that immigrants are “invading the country”? Among Republicans who don’t watch Fox regularly, 52% say yes. Among Republicans who rely on Fox as their primary news source, it’s 78%. Do Republicans wish Trump would behave like other presidents? Only 29% of Fox News Republicans say yes, in stark contrast to 60% of other Republicans.
Fox News viewers and white evangelicals were also the groups of Republicans most likely to say that there was basically nothing Trump could do that would affect their support for him—the true “shoot someone on Fifth Avenue” Trump base. In this we can see both that Fox News is a partisan network that should never, ever be understood as anything else—not just a tool of the Republican Party, but a driver of it—and that “white evangelical” is now not so much a religious affiliation as a political one.