Changing channels?:A comparison of Fox and MSNBC in 2012, 2016, and 2020

Lanning, Kevin and Wetherell, Geoffrey and Warfel, Evan A. and Boyd, Ryan L (2021) Changing channels?:A comparison of Fox and MSNBC in 2012, 2016, and 2020. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy (ASAP), 21 (1). pp. 149-174. ISSN 1529-7489

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We compare the contents of Fox and MSNBC weekday evening telecasts using natural language analysis with the Linguistic Inventory Word Count (LIWC) and sociopolitical dictionaries tapping into moral foundations, values, grievances, and personality. Across time, the two networks differed substantially across many constructs, particularly those from the LIWC. The core of the difference between the networks was captured by a four-component measure which we labeled Personalizing vs. Formal speech. Scores on this measure were particularly volatile during 2019 and 2020, a period which included Trump’s first impeachment, the beginning of the COVID pandemic, and the 2020 presidential campaign. In comparison with prior presidential election years, only MSNBC showed a drop in positive emotions in 2020, while both networks increased in the use of communal and analytic language. Contrary to our expectations, the language style of the two networks did not demonstrate increasing divergence over time.

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Journal Article
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Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy (ASAP)
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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Lanning, K, Wetherell, G, Warfel, EA, Boyd, RL. Changing channels? A comparison of fox and MSNBC in 2012, 2016, and 2020. Anal Soc Issues Public Policy. 2021; 21: 149– 174. doi: 10.1111/asap.12265. which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
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16 Jul 2021 11:05
Last Modified:
31 Jul 2022 01:25