Fox News Viewers Are Less-Informed Than People Who Watch No News At All

Source: Andrew Kirell @ Mediate

A survey released a month ago (from Farleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind) finds that people who watch no news at all can answer more questions about international current events than people who watch cable news outlets like Fox News and (to a much lesser degree) MSNBC. The survey also finds that Fox News viewers are the worst-informed on domestic and international current events, while NPR listeners are the best-informed.

The poll report claims that “NPR and Sunday morning political talk shows are the most informative news outlets, while exposure to partisan sources, such as Fox News and MSNBC, has a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge.”

Each surveyed individual was asked four of the eight questions listed at the bottom of this post. People who watch MSNBC and CNN exclusively were able to answer questions about domestic events than people who watch no news at all. Only people who watch Fox did worse than people who watch no news at all. NPR listeners answered more questions correctly than people in any other category. Here’s a breakdown of the results:

The report says of its findings on Fox News:

The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly — a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. On the other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly; viewers of Sunday morning talk shows fare similarly well. And people watching only The Daily Show with Jon Stewart could answer about 1.42 questions correctly.

The survey also controlled for partisanship. Cable news viewers answered more questions correctly when their political views aligned with those of the outlets they watched. Moderates and liberals who watch only Fox did worse than the conservatives who watch it. Similarly for MSNBC, its conservative viewers struggled compared to the liberal viewers.

FDU political scientist Dan Cassino said this shows that “Ideological news sources, like Fox and MSNBC, are really just talking to one audience. […] This is solid evidence that if you’re not in that audience, you’re not going to get anything out of watching them.”

Sample of Survey Questions

• To the best of your knowledge, have the opposition groups protesting in Egypt been successful in removing Hosni Mubarak?
• How about the opposition groups in Syria? Have they been successful in removing Bashar al-Assad?
• Some countries in Europe are deeply in debt, and have had to be bailed out by other countries. To the best of your knowledge, which country has had to spend the most money to bail out European countries?
• There have been increasing talks about economic sanctions against Iran. What are these sanctions supposed to do?
• Which party has the most seats in the House of Representatives right now?
• In December, House Republicans agreed to a short-term extension of a payroll tax cut, but only if President Obama agreed to do what?
• It took a long time to get the final results of the Iowa caucuses for Republican candidates. In the end, who was declared the winner?
• How about the New Hampshire Primary? Which Republican won that race?
• According to official figures, about what percentage of Americans are currently unemployed?

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