Fox News, MSNBC Ratings Reflect Nation's Political Divide

News channel ratings and rankings for the just-concluded third quarter provide an illustration of how political opinions and points of view are divided almost right down the middle in this country.

Here is what struck me most about the third-quarter numbers for the news channels when a source sent them to me the other day: While Fox News Channel is still the top-rated among the three news channels, the MSNBC numbers are not that far behind.

Some of the MSNBC audience tallies are in the same ballpark as the numbers for Fox News, which symbolizes how Balkanized our news media usage has become.

Birds of a feather flock together: In the third quarter of 2018, FNC’s “Hannity” was the top show in cable news with an average audience of 3.34 million viewers every weeknight. One can likely assume that the vast majority of this audience is in sync with Hannity’s conservatism.



MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow,” airing in the same 9-10 p.m. Eastern time period as “Hannity” on Fox, was in second place with 2.947 million. One can assume here that the lion’s share of her audience is as liberal as she is.

Sean Hannity is still drawing just shy of 400,000 more viewers per night than Maddow, which is not insubstantial. Still, if this divide between TV’s leading right- and left-leaning hosts is not quite 50-50, then it is at least pretty close at 53-47 (according to our calculations).

In terms of total network rankings, Fox News Channel was the top-rated network overall in all of cable TV, according to this set of third-quarter numbers. FNC had a total-day, seven-day-a week average of 1.401 million viewers. MSNBC was second with 1.042 million.

In prime time, FNC's third-quarter average was 2.457 million. MSNBC's was 1.859 million -- landing in second place in this category as well.

For its part, CNN was ranked seventh in prime-time with an average audience from 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern of 1.028 million -- behind various non-news cable networks such as ESPN (No. 3), HGTV (No. 4), USA Network (5) and History Channel (6).

In the total-day rankings, CNN was fifth with an average of 755,000 viewers.

Among the individual cable news programs, including “Hannity” and “Maddow,” the top 22 shows were either on Fox News or MSNBC -- another illustration of how the right and left have staked out their respective territories in cable news.

After “Hannity” and “Maddow” in the 1 and 2 positions, respectively, the rest of the top 10 shows in cable news were: Third, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Fox); fourth, “The Ingraham Angle” (Fox); fifth, “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” (MSNBC); sixth, “The Five” (Fox); seventh, “Special Report with Bret Baier” (Fox); eighth, “The Story with Martha MacCallum” (Fox); ninth, “All In with Chris Hayes” (MSNBC); and 10th, “11th Hour with Brian Williams” (MSNBC).

As for CNN, which most people do not categorize as either left or right but somewhere in between, the first CNN show to appear in the rankings is “Cuomo Prime Time,” ranked 23rd with an average nightly audience of 1.21 million.

23 comments about "Fox News, MSNBC Ratings Reflect Nation's Political Divide".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 5, 2018 at noon

    Actually, if you compare the recent primetime ratings for CNN, MSNBC and Fox news with how the same channels were doing a few years ago, Fox is faring quite a bit worse than before while MSNBC has more than tripled its average minute viewer tally in key primetime time slots such as Maddow's. This, no doubt reflects the vacuum left by the departure of Fox "stars" like Bill OReilly and Megan Kelly but it also may be a function of a bad rep that Fox has developed regarding the way its big shots treat women plus a negative response by middle-of-the-road ( politically ) viewers who can see that Fox is basically pandering to Trump and, in the process, losing credibility.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 5, 2018 at 12:53 p.m.

    Fox is worse, but still first.  I try to avoid both channels. Sitting in an echo chamber gets old.

  3. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 5, 2018 at 3:08 p.m.

    If we believe the Fox/Right Wing claim that every news channel except for Fox is liberal, then shouldn't we be using their "logic" in any comparison? We should combine the viewership of all non-Fox TV news outlets and compare that total number against that of Fox.  Fair's fair, right?  

  4. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, October 5, 2018 at 10:37 p.m.

    Very fair. After reading this piece, I was going to make a similar observation. If MSNBC is nipping at the heels of Fox News, well, that's remarkable considering the myriad choices for left leaning folks (including ABC, NBC, and CBS which all present with left leaning perspective). Not nearly the choices for the right, which should mean many more would have no choice but to settle on Fox. As a conservative leaning Independent, I find myself reading more books than ever. FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN are, to me, outrageously unwatchable. 

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 8, 2018 at 8:29 p.m.

    There needs to be a new definition of conservatism. Or a new word for what Fux is.

  6. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, October 8, 2018 at 9:38 p.m.

    Make up a new definition, or new word yourself, Paula. The left is great at that.

    Here's an old definition...

    1. commitment to traditional values and ideas.
    2. the holding of political views that favor free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas.

    Fire away. And while you're at it, come up with a new definition for liberalism. Make sure to include something about the traditional American "innocent until proven guilty" only applying to Americans that are not conservative.

  7. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 8, 2018 at 10:07 p.m.

    Help me out here Kenny; ... was Tamir Rice liberal or conservative? 

  8. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, October 8, 2018 at 11:05 p.m.

    You're not looking for help, Chuck. If you were, you wouldn't introduce such an incendiary red herring to this fairly innocuous discussion about which cable news POV is attracting the greatest number of eyeballs.

    Were I to guess whether Tamir would have wound up "liberal" or "conservative"... probably the former. But then, such "profiling" might wind up getting me labeled a "hateful bigot" by the left.

  9. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 8, 2018 at 11:14 p.m.

    I'm not the one who introduced a red herring.  That was you.  I just added another one to the soup. 

  10. Ken Kurtz from creative license, October 8, 2018 at 11:15 p.m.

    While we're on the topic of bad apples being attracted to law enforcement, it's always been a belief of mine, from as far back as the 60's and 70's when I was coming of age, that the starting salary for police officers should be $100,000. I figured that more of our "best and brightest" would be attracted to the profession were that the case. I know I personally might have considered law enforcement. I chose the advertising business, in part, because it provided a nice lifestyle, and creative outlet. But as important as law enforcement is, it should have been far better remunerated from the get-go, and we would have far fewer dregs attracted to it, and enmeshed in it. Far fewer "bad shoots" likely.

  11. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 8, 2018 at 11:24 p.m.

    Kenny, you've definitely got my vote on that idea.  On a similar note, a few departments not only pay well, but require a Bachelors degree.  It's no surprise that they have far fewer of the usual problems with their personnel.

  12. Ken Kurtz from creative license, October 8, 2018 at 11:29 p.m.

    But here's something that the left will never acknowledge, or discuss sensibly. According to the US Census Bureau, 13% of our population is African-American. That 13% of our population commits over 50% of all the murders in America. Add in crimes like rape, assault, attempted murder, armed robbery, carjackings, etc. to murders and that 13% commits over 80% of all violent crime in America, according to the US Department of Justice.

    Those numbers are abominable. As long as those numbers are so out of whack, bad law enforcement officers, in fear for their own lives when an African-American pulls out even a fake gun, will respond by firing their real guns and we will have sad situations like the Tamir Rice situation.

    Honestly, the idea that African-Americans could ever be policed similarly to other races so far LESS PREDISPOSED to violence, violent crime, and murder is a little nuts. 

    Liberal, or conservative. Black, white, purple, or rainbow. Don't pull out guns that look real when there are people concrened about their own lives in the vicinity. If Black Lives REALLY Matter, well, the African-American community in this country has some work to do to show that they mean it.

  13. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 9, 2018 at 12:45 a.m.

    Tamir was ten years old, average size for his age. He did not "pull out" the toy gun. 

    And we'll need a list of unacceptable objects that even vaguely resemble guns, plus a graduated color tone scale, from light to dark, illustrating exactly at which "point of darkness" we can expect bad law enforcement officers to begin firing their weapons. 

  14. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, October 9, 2018 at 9:15 a.m.

    Why lie, Chuck? Why does the left lead with lies, so regularly, when it doesn't have to?

    For your statement to be true (Tamir was ten years old) you'd have to contextually be speaking about something that occurred two years prior to his tragic shooting at the age of 12.

    As for average size for his age, debatable. Tamir had some heft to him, was above average size for a 12 year old. Not sure it's particularly relevant, though. Small people with small guns can kill with one squeeze of the trigger.

    The reports that were being called in to the police spoke of an "African-American" male pointing a gun at people... those reports instigated the arrival of the two officers on the scene. 

    These two facts are inconvenient for you, Chuck, but the "toy gun" that Tamir repeatedly pulled out of his waistband was very realistic looking, and he most certainly did "reach for his waistband" instead of putting his hands up as instructed by police when they arrived to investigate.

    I don't know, I'm a 2 + 2 = 4 kind of guy. My kids know better than to brandish objects that are indistinguishable from deadly weapons in public places (again, Tamir's "toy" was indistinguishable from a real weapon by every report), and know better than to disobey the instructions of police officers that may well be in fear for their own lives because of what they're doing. I've taught them to know better, in part, so that I won't find them shot dead because their intent was unclear, and misconstrued.

    It's part of my "more traditional" conservative, common-sense upbringing, I suppose.

    Do you deny police officers the right to respond fearfully (a very human trait) to real life situations, and dangers? Do you have more right to make it home at night into the loving arms of your family than do police officers? 

  15. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 9, 2018 at 12:08 p.m.

    I was obviously wrong about his age.  He was 12, and not 10.  On the other points, please review the videos of Rice taken before the shooting, and the actual audio of the call to police by the citizen in the park. I'm not talking about the dispatcher's call to the police.  

    Then check the actual time that elapsed between the police car arrival and the fatal shots being fired. 

  16. Chuck Lantz from, network replied, October 9, 2018 at 12:32 p.m.

    Wiki's not usually the best source, but this entry seems complete.

  17. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, October 9, 2018 at 2:47 p.m.

    Seems like we're moving further into the weeds here, Chuck.

    A tragic accident, yes. Blame to go around. But what's your point? There are bad, underpaid cops, no doubt. There are bad apples in every crate, fill in this blank ________
    with the profession of your choice.

    We've touched on part of the reason unqualified people are attracted to police work, but certainly haven't exhausted that. Personally, the whole "napoleonic complex" thing that seems rampant in that universe of relative underachievers is problematic to me. We can speculate until the cows come home, but of one thing I am fairly certain. If that boy hadn't been sitting there with a fake gun that looked real, and made a gesture that might have appeared to any human being (never mind police that are mindful of ever-present danger) that he was going for the gun that had already been reported he was carrying, well, that boy would be alive today.

    Hate to go back there, but the flashpoint for Black Lives Matter is the police shooting of Michael Brown. We've all heard the false narrative "Hands Up Don't Shoot" put forth by the left. Of course, the sadder truth was that Michael Brown commited multiple crimes leading up to his shooting, and his final "attempted crime" (relieving the police officer that was investigating him for the robbery, and assault he'd committed at the convenience store previously of his weapon) proved to be his undoing. 

    What would anybody expect? Again, black, white, red, green, or rainbow... you attempt to relieve a law enforcement officer of his/her weapon, and you're going to get capped. Who is responsible for leading these children so poorly, and failing to teach them common sense behavior in the face of authority? Why is the African-American community commiting such a preponderance of the violent crime in our society, and does it make sense to treat people with such an unequivocal predilection for violence the same as people FAR LESS predisposed to killing?

  18. Chuck Lantz from, network replied, October 9, 2018 at 2:56 p.m.

    This one was too easy to not ignore:

    "Honestly, the idea that African-Americans could ever be policed similarly to other races so far LESS PREDISPOSED to violence, violent crime, and murder is a little nuts."

    Or, to put it into historical context:

    "Honestly, the idea that __(*pick one or more from list below) ___ could ever be policed similarly to other races so far LESS PREDISPOSED to violence, violent crime, and murder is a little nuts."

    * Irish Americans
       Native Americans
       Jewish Americans
       Italian Americans
       Mexican Americans
       Polish Americans
       Chinese Americans
       African Americans
       (partial list)

  19. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 9, 2018 at 3:44 p.m.

    After reading this extended exchange of views about American politics, presidental failures, etc. I've got an idea for a new, edgy, TV sitcom. I call it "The Really Odd Couple". It's about two guys from the world of media/advertising who are worlds apart in their political thinking but are forced to live together in an east side Manhattan appartment---due to financial needs--- because their wives tired of their endless---but sometimes creative---bickering and divorced them.. The stars love to play poker with some of their pals and often go out at night on double dates---but their ongoing battle of words is the main appeal of the show which is intended to draw viewers from all political spectrums. OK, Netflix, we've aready got our stars in place, what about funding a future storyline prospectus, a first show script and a pilot?

  20. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, October 9, 2018 at 4:01 p.m.

    Ding, ding, ding, ding! We have a winnah!

    Ratings bonanza? Or barely enough eyeballs to beat out the unwatchable #1 Faux News?

  21. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, October 9, 2018 at 4:03 p.m.

    And Ed, considering that you've actually read this extended exchange, you should PRODUCE!

  22. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 9, 2018 at 4:14 p.m.

    My people will contact your people.  But anything less than top-billing is a dealbreaker. 

  23. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 9, 2018 at 5:22 p.m.

    Guys, my programming folks think it would be even neater if one of the two is a "slob" while the other is extremely fastidious and a very good cook. What do you think---and who gets to be the slob and who is super neat cook?

Next story loading loading..