Declining Conservatism Among Millennials Signals Bad News for Fox News, Limbaugh

As we noted here in May, a couple of studies released last year produced surprising results about the average consumers of right-wing media.

It is true that Fox News and Limbaugh have stronger ratings than liberal broadcasting outlets – some wags suggest this is because liberals can read.

We quoted Michael Woolf who wrote in Vanity Fair that the “dirty little secret of conservative talk radio is that the average age of listeners is 67 [so now 68] and rising … [The] Fox News audience, likewise, is in its mid-60s.” In addition, a Pew study in February 2009 found that 72 percent of Rush Limbaugh’s grizzled Dittoheads are men and so have a life expectancy of 75.6 years, which means this cohort will start to expire by 2017. Limbaugh will be 60 next January, which means he will be 67 when his average-aged listeners begin to die off.

A study released by Pew last week had more bad news for the conservative movement, both in the political realm and its propaganda outlets. The report’s title — “Democrats’ Edge Among Millennials Slips” — signaled an ominous development for the left, but a deeper dig produces much worse news for the right. It is dying. Literally.

First the bad news for Dems. Support for the Democratic party among the Millennial generation, the young people who came of age around 2000, dropped from 62 percent — an astronomical high in politics — in 2008 to 54 percent by late 2009. Conversely, Millennials’ support for the GOP was a dismal 30 percent (roughly equal to George W. Bush’s job approval approval during his second term) in 2008, but rose to a less anemic 40 percent by late 2009.

The 8 point drop in youth support for Dems was likely driven by disillusionment in the political process as Pres. Obama and the Democrats confronted the disasters they inherited — the Great Recession, the botched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rest — from Bush and his Republican-controlled rubberstamp Congress. Bush was president throughout the Millennials’ early adulthood, and they, like many of their liberal elders, were too idealistic about how quickly the crises he left behind could be resolved — a factor that was exacerbated by Obama’s squishy campaign themes, “Hope” and “Change.”

Here’s what the Pew Report said:

The “Millennial Generation” of young voters played a big role in the resurgence of the Democratic Party in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but their attachment to the Democratic Party weakened markedly over the course of 2009. The Democratic advantage over the Republicans in party affiliation among young voters, including those who “lean” to a party, reached a whopping 62 percent to 30 percent margin in 2008. But by the end of 2009 this 32-point margin had shrunk to just 14 points: 54 percent Democrat, 40 percent Republican.

While the Republican Party picked up support from Millennials during 2009, this age group continues to favor the Democratic Party more than do other generations. And the underlying political values of this new generation continue to be significantly more liberal than those of other generations on many measures.

Now for the really — really — bad news for conservatives from the new Pew report. Let’s let Daniel Larison at The American Conservative be the messenger:

The percentage of self-identifying conservatives among Millennials is basically equal with that of self-identifying liberals (28 percent vs. 29 percent). The youngest generation of voters is unusually ill-disposed towards movement conservatism of the sort on display at CPAC, which is the event [Nile] Gardiner hails not only as proof that conservatism is the future but as an “intellectually vibrant” gathering…

[The] evidence we have available right now suggests that conservatism is losing, indeed has already lost, most of the next generation, and that conservatism as we know it today is going to keep losing ground in the future…

Republicans remain behind among all voters younger than 65. That does not seem to herald the future revival of movement conservatism of the sort Gardiner is so embarrassingly praising.

In fact, the youth presence at CPAC declined this year, again quoting from The American Conservative:

The percentage of students declined this year, to 48 percent from 52 percent in 2009. And the percentage of registrants aged 18 to 25 also declined this year, to 54 percent from 57 percent in 2009. (The percentage of those under 18 stayed the same both years — 2 percent.)

Of course, it is true that Fox News and Limbaugh have stronger ratings than liberal broadcasting outlets — some wags suggest this is because liberals can read. But what all these numbers say, loud and clear, is that the movement conservatism that dominated the culture in the late 20th century has little or no appeal among young voters, and this is bad news for the future of right-wing media.


  • Nikolai
    February 25, 2010 - 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I predict right-wing media will die a slow, painful death as people young and old alike simply stop watching. Who wants to listen to a bunch of half-truths and outright lies anyway? Fox needs to either switch to legitimate news without the opinion and commentary (especially when never announcing it IS only opinion and commentary), or simply let it be known (to those who don’t know it already) that it is for entertainment only, like limpbugger’s radio show.

  • February 25, 2010 - 2:08 pm | Permalink

    The right wing fringe will be weeded out of the news at some point. Like the tea parties, that are failing because of the involvement of the right wing fringe. People are starting to wake up slowly to this illusion of “conservative” diatribe. It just can’t happen fast enough for me, we are in trouble, and unless we pull our heads from the sand soon, we will go the way of other used to be great Nations.

  • March 4, 2010 - 7:44 am | Permalink

    It’s death cannot be painful enough.

  • DaveZ
    March 4, 2010 - 8:20 am | Permalink

    I used to do work as a painter for a local construction company. One of the guys I worked with went around all day with headphones on. All he listened to was talk radio, particularly Rush Limbaugh. Old, grizzled man who rambles on the whole day about conspiracies. Exactly the demographic and kind of hateful person described above. I ended up quitting because I couldn’t stand being targeted for annoying lies and rhetoric. Rush has one effect: he turns people into giant assholes. Although, it was actually funny when he told me his fear that Obama’s election would mean Israel will “nuke Iran.” I still don’t understand where that one came from.

  • Paul
    March 4, 2010 - 11:09 am | Permalink

    To call the right wing propaganda mchine “media” is to accord it a legitimacy it hasn’t earned and doesn’t deserve. Call it what it is: a propaganda operation. It does not exist to inform, it exists to manipulate, to impose the will and thinking of conservative ideologues and ideology upon others when it is otherwise not possible to persuade by reasoned argument or debate. The tools of the propaganda operation’s trade are lies, deception, disinformation, fear mongering, redefining that which is unworthy, base and ignoble into supposed virtues, appealing to the lowest and most degraded human instincts, lies of ommission, and so on., all of it coordinated and exercised using a monopoly, or near monopoly over the means of mass communication. The propagandists’ methods do not include any practices or acts that would qualify as traditional legitimate journalism. their operations duplicate the propaganda efforts of the most despotic and tyranical regimes in the world and of the past.

    They will fail regardless the unfolding demographics, if for no other reason than it being impossible to forever control all means of communication of mass-consumed information and because it is impossible to maintain any lie in perpetuity. As it turns out, every now and then the bad guys get their day in the sun. But, because of the things that they value and the pathological way they invariably go about getting those things, they always end up being self-destructive and self-defeating. In the case of the propagandists, their message and their spokespeople are becoming parodies of themselves, absurd and pathetic. By their own methods, they make place themselves beyond belief and discredit the causes on behalf of which they practice their dark and dishonorable craft. By the time it is done, both the propagandists and their message will become so ridiculous, that the only persons who will buy into it are those who are promulgating their message and cause and those who make up a core of rightwing authoritarian personalities. One group is rationalizing their own pathological behavior in order to self-justify and the other is just looking for somebody to tell them what to do such that no thought or effort expended in making moral or ethical choices is required. It will settle out at about 25% of the population, not enough to hold power, not enough to wield much influence.

    The conservative ideal of rule by applied sociopathy has had it’s day in the sun, and made a complete mess of things, as should have been apparent would happen before the fact. It’s getting on late afternoon for this crew and their propagandists. They’ve blown it and their time in power and influence will pass. Others will be tasked with cleaning up the mess.

    The pendulum is already swinging away from them, and as it continues to do so , they will become progressively more irrelevent to anything that matters in a positive way.

  • Leslie
    March 4, 2010 - 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone done any research on availability of network signal since the digital change? I used to get all four broadcast networks. I now get three FOX channels, a few religious ones, and nothing else.

    That is, last year I lost the ability to receive either CBS, NBC or ABC. And I live just 15 miles from downtown Seattle. I’m just wondering now many people watch Fox news now (since June 09) because they can no longer get other networks and refuse or can’t afford satellite or cable.

    If that’s the reason for their jump in Fox ratings, it might just be that people would rather have a little local TV news coverage than none at all. Are people watching Fox because they want to or because they don’t have much of a choice.

  • March 4, 2010 - 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Excellent question/observation, Leslie. I gave up my T.V. altogether after the digital conversion but when I was dependent on broadcast signals, FOX always came in the best. I think there could be something to what you’re saying.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *