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December 21, 2010 3:20 PM Fox News vs. the University of Maryland

By Daniel Luzer

On December 10th researchers at the University of Maryland released a study about voters and their opinions.

The report indicated that people who regularly watched Fox News were likely to be misinformed about major issues. Daily viewers were more likely to believe that “most economists” think the stimulus caused job losses. They were also more likely to believe that “most scientists” don’t believe in global warming and that most Republicans opposed TARP.

None of these things are true but Fox viewers tend to believe such things. They’re also more likely to believe such misinformation the more they watch Fox News.

Fox News addressed the findings of this study, but it did so rather oddly. According to an article by Brian Stelter at the New York Times:

In a statement, Michael Clemente, who is the senior vice president of news editorial for the network, said: “The latest Princeton Review ranked the University of Maryland among the top schools for having ‘Students Who Study The Least’ and being the ‘Best Party School’ - given these fine academic distinctions, we’ll regard the study with the same level of veracity it was ‘researched’ with.’”

What? Clemente seems to suggest that because UMD is a party school that somehow undermines the quality of the research performed by the school’s faculty. One of the study’s authors, Steven Kull, is a political scientist in his early 60s who serves as the director of UMD’s Program on International Policy Attitudes. The other researchers appear to similarly accomplished, and also similarly removed from, um, partying.

This, of course, is stupid. Quinnipiac University, for instance, regularly releases one of the most widely respected political opinion polls. This is despite the fact that most people have otherwise never even heard of the school. The research obviously has nothing whatsoever to do with the social life (or even quality) of the school’s undergraduate students.

As one scholar affiliated with the Maryland study complained to Media Matters:

I thought it was interesting that they didn’t say the report is based on a bad sample or the questions were the wrong questions, they try to characterize the place as a party school.
At least that particular [Fox] spokesman chose not to challenge the study on its merits but to make an essentially irrelevant criticism of the university. And probably a dubious criticism of the university.

Ah yes, release of irrelevant points and inaccurate information. Well I guess it’s worked for Fox News in the past. It’s currently the country’s most-watched cable news channel.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer