Newsmax viewers are nearly twice as likely to refuse the vaccine than Fox News watchers, new poll finds

Supporters listen as former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas on July 11, 2021.
Supporters listen as former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas on July 11, 2021. ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images
  • A recent survey on news consumption found differences in vaccine hesitancy among conservatives.
  • Newsmax and OAN viewers were twice as likely as Fox News’s audience to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Vaccine hesitancy remains a major challenge to the Biden administration.
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A recent survey on how news consumption affects policy views found that Fox News viewers are much less vaccine hesitant than those who tune into further right-wing cable channels Newsmax and One America News Network (OAN).

In a summary of the findings from the Public Religion Research Institute published on the data news site FiveThirtyEight, a shifting landscape in conservative media emerged as a possible explanation for the disparity.

It also showed how news consumption correlates with not just vaccine hesitancy – one of the biggest issues facing the Biden administration in its efforts to bring the US fully out of the pandemic – but also belief in QAnon conspiracy theories and the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen.

For Republicans who identified as getting most of their news from Fox, 54% said they’ve either already taken the COVID-19 vaccine or plan to get it as soon as possible. Just 32% of GOP Newsmax and OAN viewers said the same.

As for those who said they would refuse the vaccine, 16% of Fox watchers said they would compared to 32% for Newsmax and OAN.

In the FiveThirtyEight write up of the study, Public Religion Research Institute Director Natalie Jackson cautioned that while the survey found news consumption habits and vaccine views to be correlated, tuning into Newsmax or OAN instead of Fox does not necessarily cause someone to be more vaccine hesitant.

Drawing on the institute’s past surveys and ones from other pollsters in the space, Jackson explained how Fox News is no longer the consensus choice for conservative respondents with the most extreme views.

The institute’s polling found a shift that began in the aftermath of the 2020 election, when Newsmax and OAN were much more willing to run with former President Donald Trump’s lies about it being stolen than most Fox News hosts were.

Jackson touched on the complicated realignment in conservative media and how the difference between the two audiences on vaccine hesitancy was replicated in views on QAnon and the “Big Lie.”

“We don’t yet know whether Republicans are choosing their different media sources based on preexisting views, or whether the media sources are actively shaping those views,” Jackson writes. “It’s likely that both forces are at play. But what we do know is that far-right news sources are attracting a small but growing proportion of Republicans – many of whom either already held or developed extreme views – while Fox News, once the go-to source for many on the fringe of the party, may no longer be a hotbed for some of the GOP’s most extreme beliefs.”