The ESPN layoffs has had those on the political right wagging their fingers and saying “I told you so” over their narrative that the Worldwide Leader has become too liberal and wasn’t “sticking to sports.” Now there’s data showing that ESPN viewership among conservatives has been going down steadily for four years.
According to YouGov, satisfaction among Republicans has been dropping since 2013 and two events in particular have triggered that decrease. First was transgender Caitlyn Jenner being honored at ESPY’s in 2015 and given the Arthur Ashe Award for courage. And then the other event that caused consternation among conservatives was the firing of Curt Schilling in 2016. After those two events, GOP sentiment went down, although confidence among conservatives was going up before Schilling’s firing.
A look at YouGov’s chart shows that satisfaction among Republicans is going down while among Democrats, it remains level:
During this period, ESPN’s subscriber base has also decreased thanks to cord-cutting. YouGov’s data also shows that 1/4 of current ESPN viewers say they plan to cancel their cable subscription, but doesn’t break down the split among Democrats and Republicans.
While many observers note the ESPN layoffs are strictly financial and have nothing to do with politics, that explanation is not enough for conservatives who feel the network has leaned too much to the left. While perception is not reality, conservatives still have their narratives about ESPN and their beliefs has contributed to their anger towards the network and continued dissatisfaction dating back to 2013.