On Election Night last month, much of the punditry early in the evening centered on the belief that the “Blue Wave” had been overstated and the results were actually favorable for the GOP, considering high-profile races in Georgia, Florida and Texas went the Republicans’ way. It was only in the days following that it became clear that the Democrats had a truly dominant midterm as they gained at least 40 seats in the House, flipped several governors’ seats, and took back hundreds of state-level offices.
The day after Election Night, Fox News boasted of their historic ratings as the conservative-leaning network drew more viewers than any other channels that evening, including the broadcast networks, who devoted multi-hour primetime coverage as the results came in. Fox averaged 7.784 million viewers during the 8 PM to 11 PM hours that night, setting a cable news record in total viewership for a midterm election night coverage.
But just like with the actual results from the election, the fallout for cable news ratings among the ideologically opposed Fox News and MSNBC networks took some time to settle following the midterms. And a month after voters went to the polls, we are seeing that MSNBC’s ratings have surged while Fox News has seen significant erosion.
Just to set the table here, in the weeks prior to the election, Fox News was riding a wave of increased viewership — especially in primetime — following the combative and polarizing Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation. With conservative viewers already energized over their belief that Democrats were unfairly trying to stop the president’s Supreme Court pick from being confirmed, Fox cranked up the outrage factor exponentially in October by focusing much of its coverage to fearmongering over the migrant caravan.
In the four weeks prior to Election Night (October 8th through November 5th), Fox News weekday primetime programming averaged 3.008 million total viewers and 586,000 in the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen. In comparison during the same time period, MSNBC drew a total viewership of 2.020 million and 345,000 in the demo.
All three of Fox’s primetime shows attracted huge audiences in the month preceding the election. Hannity averaged 3.237 million viewers overall and 623,000 in the key demo. Tucker Carlson Tonight pulled in a demo audience of 596,000 and 3.038 million total viewers. The Ingraham Angle attracted a total audience of 2.748 million and 538,000 in the demographic.
Over on MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show grabbed 2.597 million viewers overall and 469,000 in the 25-54 demographic. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell averaged a total viewership of 1.881 million and 314,000 in the demo. All In with Chris Hayes drew 1.582 million total viewers and 252,000 in the demographic.
Following Fox News’ big Election Night performance, the tables have definitely turned. With Democrats enjoying big election wins and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation heating up again after going quiet during the run-up to Election Day, it appears liberal viewers are the ones who have now become energized while conservatives have been less engaged.
From November 7th through December 6th, MSNBC averaged 2.415 million total viewers and 412,000 in the demo during weekday primetime. This marked growth of 19.6 percent in total viewership and 19.4 percent in the demographic. Fox News, meanwhile, dropped 21.2 percent in the demo with 462,000 and 13.5 percent in total viewers with 2.603 million.
All three of MSNBC’s primetime programs have experienced double-digit growth in the past four weeks while Fox News’ shows have seen marked declines. The show that saw the biggest improvement was All In, which has grown by 23.8 percent in total audience (1.958 million) and 28.2 percent in the demo (323,000).
Maddow is up 15.4 percent in total viewership (2.997 million) and 15.1 percent in the key demo (540,000), leading cable news in both categories during the time period. O’Donnell has witnessed 22.6 percent growth in the demographic (385,000) and 21.7 percent in overall viewership (2.289 million), leading its time slot in the latter metric.
Over on Fox, Hannity has dropped by 13.6 percent in total audience (2.798 million) and 23.3 percent in the demo (478,000), placing third in the latter category after leading cable news in the key demographic prior to the midterms. Ingraham suffered the largest drop in both the demo (23.6 percent) and total viewership (16.8 percent), drawing 2.287 million and 411,000 respectively. Tucker is down 10.3 percent in total viewers (2.724 million) and 16.9 percent in the 25-54 demo (495,000).
With more turmoil facing the Trump administration over the coming weeks and months, and Democrats officially taking over the House in January, could we be seeing additional gains for MSNBC in 2019? Will the piling up of bad news for Trump and Republicans spell bad news for Fox?