At a closed-to-the-press Florida fundraiser Sunday night at which his remarks were overheard by some reporters standing outside, Mitt Romney was asked about his media strategy for the general election campaign. According to reports in the Wall Street Journal and MSNBC, Romney said his campaign has been treated well by Fox News but that he needs to expand his audience beyond the leading cable news channel.
"Fox is watched by the true believers," Romney told donors, according to the Wall Street Journal. "We need to get the independents and the women."
Romney singled out CNN's Wolf Blitzer as a good newsman, and today the campaign circulated a photo of Romney and wife Ann walking in Boston with ABC's Diane Sawyer, with whom the couple is doing an extensive interview. So Romney is indeed broadening his media strategy.
But Romney appears to hold a mistaken view of the Fox audience -- a view common among the network's critics in the media. (Disclosure: I am a Fox News contributor.) A few years ago, Pew Research did a survey of the partisan makeup of television news audiences and found that, while a lot of Republicans do watch Fox, so do a lot of Democrats and independents. "Democrats comprise a larger share of the Fox News audience than Republicans do of CNN's audience," Pew reported.
Pew found that 39 percent of regular Fox watchers are Republicans, while 33 percent are Democrats. For CNN, Pew found that 51 percent of viewers are Democrats, while just 18 percent are Republicans. According to Pew, 22 percent of Fox's audience, and 23 percent of CNN's, are independents.
Given the differences in audience size -- Fox's audience is far, far larger than CNN's -- Romney would certainly reach more independents, and perhaps even more Democrats, on Fox than he would on CNN. Yes, there are Republican "true believers" watching Fox -- a group among whom Romney still needs to shore up his support -- but there are a lot more people watching, too.