US Media Preferences

In the US, people on both sides of the political spectrum claim media outlets do not report political issues fairly. Out of three most-watched networks, CNN and MSNBC are considered liberal-biased, whereas for many people Fox News is the paramount example of a conservative-biased news source.

This animation shows the most-watched news outlet by county between 2005 and 2017. Blue for counties in which the combined TV ratings of CNN and MSNBC (the liberal-biased outlets) are higher than those of FOX News, and red for counties where Fox News is the dominant news source. The percentages next to the networks’ names represent the proportion of US counties for which those networks where the most-watched that year.


Interestingly, the most-watched news network varies considerably both, across counties and through time. In the period leading up to the 2008 presidential election, liberal outlets ratings were on the rise. The year president Obama won his first presidential election, liberal outlets were the most-watched in 45% of US counties – the highest point for liberal outlets in the period observed. During the entire Obama administration, however, liberal outlets only took first place as most-watched in less than 26% of all counties. Could this be the effect of a conservative backlash to a president perceived as fully embodying liberal values?

The 2016 presidential election seems to be another turning point for media preferences – with many counties turning blue. By 2017, 37% of US counties have liberal outlets as most-watched. A liberal backlash to the election of president Trump? Backlash or not, media preferences seem to correlate negatively with the political affiliation of the president in office.

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