Is Your Political Bent Vanilla/Chocolate or Strawberry?


The debate about the two major political ideologies got me thinking about ice cream of late. What the heck does that mean?

Well, those of you on the right that I’ve interacted with make a big deal of some typical Fox News network talking points. My question is if they really mean what Fox, and their on-air personalities, suggest they do.

For example, Fox likes to claim it’s the number one news network on TV. Bill O’Reilly never misses a chance to tell you he’s got the number one show in prime time.

In thinking about these two things and looking over the numbers they seem extremely impressive on first glance. If you’re to compare O’Reilly’s numbers to any other cable news show then there’s generally no contest. He often has a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 advantage in viewers. It’s not that dramatic for Fox News in general but they too usually have a substantial lead over other cable news networks.

However, I then started thinking about what those numbers mean and that’s where ice cream came in. Say you’re a fan of strawberry ice cream. Most places will have an abundance of quality vanilla and chocolate ice cream but you’ll often find strawberry to be a bit …. hit and miss. Let’s say one ice cream shop in town specializes in strawberry ice cream and that there are several other shops in town that have this abundance of chocolate and vanilla on hand.

If you haven’t guessed already Fox News is the strawberry flavor in this equation. If conservatives are right and “mainstream media” has a liberal bias they find offensive then it suffices to say that all the non-Fox News channel networks serve up the standard Vanilla/Chocolate.

So, now the strawberry shop gets more visitors per day than any of the other shops. Here’s the key point. Does this mean strawberry is the most popular flavor? Based on Fox’s comments and those of its personalities and fans that’s what it means but this isn’t accurate.

All it means is that the vast majority of strawberry fans (conservative TV viewers) frequent the one shop (network) that features its favorite flavor (ideology). In other words, vanilla/chocolate fans (liberals) have a much wider selection of shops (networks) to choose from so it only makes sense that this would result in having an impact on each one of them.

The brilliance of Fox News is that they correctly figured out that they could make a fortune bucking the trends and providing viewers with an option they didn’t have before—a truly conservative-bent news network.

The problem now is what’s being made of this. Fox is attempting to brainwash everyone into believing that just because their network draws more viewers than any other single network that this means they speak for the majority in this country and that “strawberry” is the most popular flavor.

A more accurate accounting would require comparing the total liberal audience against the total conservative audience which, I’m not sure, is all that possible right now but I suspect it would come out very much the same as voting does (somewhere near the middle).

Consider Glenn Beck. He was on CNN but couldn’t gain an audience. He moves over to Fox and his show suddenly vaults up heavily. That shows that conservatives are not hanging out on the other networks. If it were just about the people and their viewpoints then Beck’s numbers should have been similar. He went from 300,00 a night to nearly 2 million a night on Fox.

What muddies this even more is when an O’Reilly bloviates and starts telling people he has the #1 show on TV, or in prime time or in his time slot or in news and none of those are even close to being correct. Top network shows draw well more than ten times his audience. Even a single evening of a typical news show like NBC‘s Dateline draws multiples of his audience size. Brian Williams on NBC’s nightly news routinely pulls in more than 10 million viewers a night. If we’re to listen to the conservatives then these are liberal shows and given the choice wouldn’t conservatives be over at Fox News? If so then these are liberal viewers primarily. I’m not ready to buy that as this would suggest that liberals outnumber conservatives by a factor of about 10-to-1.

That doesn’t seem right to me just as I know strawberry isn’t the most popular ice cream flavor.

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