New research points to a surprisingly politically diverse listenership
Fox News is the most watched cable news channel in America. According to figures for the fourth quarter of 2021, the network’s top show, The Five, pulled in 3.3 million viewers. The runners-up, Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity, were close behind. Altogether, Fox is comfortably ahead of the liberal news channels MSNBC and CNN.
However, the channel would lose its top spot if the Joe Rogan Experience was included on the chart. Rogan’s show is a podcast, not a cable news programme, so it isn’t counted — but with an audience of around 11 million it would dominate the ratings.
If the impact of Fox News on American politics is worth studying, then it follows that the same applies to Rogan. The business intelligence company, Morning Consult, has just published research into the make-up of his fan base. According to the findings, one in ten Americans consider themselves to be “avid fans” and further two in ten describe themselves as “casual fans”.
How do the avid fans — presumably the core of Rogan’s audience — compare to the seven in ten Americans who don’t describe themselves as fans?
The first thing that stands out is that they’re heavily male — 72% of the avid fans are men compared to just 42% of the non-fans. They’re also young. 46% of the avid fans are aged between 18 and 34, and a further 23% between 35 and 44. The equivalent figures for the non-fans are 26% and 14%.
As for race, the majority of avid fans are white (64%), but that’s a slightly lower proportion than among the non-fans (67%). Furthermore 25% of the avid fans are Hispanic (the figure for the non-fans is 15%) .
The study’s author, Eli Yokley, has also tweeted out some charts on political preference. Though Joe Rogan rejects Right and Left labels for himself, his audience leans Right — with 46% of this avid fans identifying as Republicans (and just 23% as Democrats).
So from a Democratic perspective, are Rogan’s listeners a lost cause — a younger version of the Fox News audience? Looking down the replies to Yokley’s tweet, that appears to be a common reaction.
And yet, as Yokley points out, almost half of Rogan’s fan base did not vote for Trump in 2020. There are literally millions of votes up for grabs among this group. What’s more, the man they’re so avidly listening to endorsed Bernie Sanders in 2020, a self-declared socialist.
For all the talk of political polarisation between the red and blue camps, there are millions of Americans who don’t conform to the political binary. If Democrats and Republicans can’t speak on their behalf, then we can expect an increasingly influential voice for those who can.