Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 3, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

FOX SUCKS....Finally! We have scientific proof that Fox News does, indeed, suck. According to a new survey from the Program on International Policy Attitudes, people who watch Fox News are significantly more poorly informed about the Iraq war than other news consumers:

The extent of Americans' misperceptions vary significantly depending on their source of news. Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions. Those who receive most of their news from NPR or PBS are less likely to have misperceptions. These variations cannot simply be explained as a result of differences in the demographic characteristics of each audience, because these variations can also be found when comparing the demographic subgroups of each audience.

I'm glad we got that cleared up!

PIPA studied three "misperceptions": that Iraq had substantial links to al-Qaeda, that world opinion was generally in favor of the war, and that WMD had been found in Iraq. And what I think is more important than the Fox bashing (not that I'm against Fox bashing, mind you) is the substantial and persistent difference between those who rely on television news vs. those who rely on print media. With the exception of the NPR crowd, which is both small and unsurprisingly liberal, people who rely on print media were substantially better informed on specific war issues than people who relied on any of the TV newscasts.

Unfortunately, the report limited itself to reporting results for people who relied on just a single source of news. It would be interesting to know how this group overall compares to people who rely on multiple sources of news. Still, there's a bunch of interesting stuff in the report, including some demographic results (the results hold across demographic groups, which indicates that news reporting really does influence beliefs) and results based on party affiliation and support for the president. It's good reading.

And what would be even more interesting would be for PIPA to do similar reports on other issues. For example, are NPR listeners similarly well informed about, say, abortion issues or gun laws, or does Fox do a better job of bursting liberal misconceptions on those issues? If PIPA did a survey testing misperceptions in a wide variety of policy areas, would any news source come out consistently on top, thus showing genuine objectivity in reporting on controversial subjects? Inquiring minds want to know.

Kevin Drum 9:42 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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