The channel attracts an ageing, angry crowd on its page, resulting in a high number of reactions, comments and shares and thats good for Trump

Donald Trumps backing from the Fox News channel is well-documented, and pretty much guaranteed. But as the president gears up for his 2020 re-election campaign, he is also getting boosted by Fox News in a different area: via Trumps occasional adversary, Facebook.

Fox News has enjoyed massive success on Facebook, where its followers tend to mirror the channels rightwing hosts: theyre loud, theres a lot of them and theyre angry.

The success of Fox News in harnessing that energy cant be overstated. On Facebook, Fox News is the top English-language publisher by engagement. Fox had 146,472,384 engagements between 1 January and 10 March 2019. was next, with 127,845,355 engagements, with the BBC a distant third.

Over the past three years, Vice found that Fox News page had accumulated 80% more reactions, comments and shares than CNN despite CNNs page having almost double the number of followers. Fox News engagement rate was five times that of the New York Times.

So how does Fox do it?

Its not per se that Fox News has some secret sauce that no one else has, said Alex Kellner, a managing director at Bully Pulpit Interactive and the former digital director for Terry McAuliffes successful gubernatorial campaign in Virginia.

But rather its because theres consolidation when it comes to the voice of the conservative party in a way that there isnt anywhere else.

The Democratic presidential candidate Julin Castro speaks during a Fox News Channel town hall event on 13 June in Tempe, Arizona. Photograph: Ross D Franklin/AP

Kellner said there is a wider range of platforms on the left where people go to to get their partisan information fix. Sites such as MoveOn, ACLU, Daily Kos compete for attention with liberal news organizations like Salon and the Nation. Not so on the right, where Fox dominates a smaller field.

When it comes to engagement, Fox News succeeds by tapping into conservative anger, said AJ Bauer, a professor of media, culture and communication at New York University who specializes in rightwing movements.

I think that theres something about the sort of sense of political embattlement that draws a lot of viewers to Fox in general. To me it would make it more likely that those people would follow it and engage with it more online, Bauer said.

Someone who just consumes the New York Times just to get their daily news, theyre consuming that for a different reason than Fox which is more consumed to kind of validate their opinions, and kind of raise their hackles and get that kind of dopamine hit of outrage or interest.

This is all good news for Trump. Many of his supporters consume Fox News on both television and Facebook, where their support for the president can be further entrenched. And in at least one regard Fox News is a perfect match for Facebook: the age of its enthusiasts.

According to Nielsen, half of Fox News viewers are over 65, and while Facebook keeps user statistics close to its chest, a 2018 study of the UK found that teens and young adults were ditching the network, with older people flocking the other way. The survey, by eMarketer, predicted over-55s would become the second biggest user group in 2018, as young people switch to Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) or Snapchat.

Donald Trump participates in a debate sponsored by Fox News on 3 March 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Younger people still spend more time and consume more content, but are slightly less likely to like share, comment, post, things like that than old people relatively. So theres definitely a demographic component that could be a part of this, said Kellner.

The ageing crowd that Fox News attracts is also an angry crowd. The news channels Facebook page attracts almost double the amount of angry responses compared with its nearest publisher, according to the social media tracking company NewsWhip.

People following Fox News on Facebook are probably familiar with this method of expressing upset. Its a little red face, frowning emoji. The emojis are animated now, so upon clicking you can see the face turn redder still as it shakes its head from side to side.

A Fox News post about Kirsten Gillibrand criticizing Trumps threatened tariff increase on Mexico received 9,224 angry faces. A story about Representative Ayanna Pressly saying the diversity of a group of Massachusetts students represented Trumps worst nightmare drew thousands of red faces, as did a piece about Illinois passing a bill establishing womens right to have an abortion.

Fox, like so many other people, do best when they are a little bit controversial and incendiary and put out red meat, Kellner said. For Fox News, thats stories about the Democrats Green New Deal climate plan, or posts about people like congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar.

As Fox News publishes its pieces on Trump, its support dovetails with the presidents own Facebook push. Trump has spent $15.5m on digital ads this year, according to the Los Angeles Times, three times as much as the biggest spending Democrat, posting thousands of different sponsored posts.

Its a move which doesnt quite chime with the presidents repeated blasting of Facebook and other digital companies. In May, the White House went as far as setting up a platform for people to report political bias on Facebook and other social network sites to the government, and Trump has opaquely suggested his administration was looking into the banning of conservatives or conspiracy theorists.

More than a month on from Trump launching his political bias reporting apparatus, little has been heard regarding the results, and the White Houses online form has been shut down.

On May 15, President Trump asked Americans to share their stories of suspected political bias, the now defunct page reads.

The White House received thousands of responses thank you for lending your voice!

If the voices were anything like those on Facebook, there will indeed have been a lot of them, and its very likely they were angry.



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