Posted by Anne Landman on December 16, 2010

PinnochioA poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org has found that the higher amounts of money flowing to the 2010 elections led to a more poorly informed public. The poll, titled "Misinformation and the 2010 Election: A Study of the U.S. Electorate," was the first conducted after a national election since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, which freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money to influence U.S. elections. The poll found strong evidence that voters were significantly misinformed on many issues that figured prominently in the 2010 election campaign, including the stimulus legislation, the healthcare reform law, TARP, the state of the economy, climate change, campaign contributions by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and President Obama’s birthplace. In most cases, increased exposure to news sources decreased misinformation, but exposure to certain news sources were found to create higher levels of misinformation. For example, people who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely to hold beliefs that are not true, including that their own income taxes have gone up, that most scientists do not believe climate change is occurring, that most economists estimated the new health care reform law will worsen the deficit, that most Republicans opposed the TARP bailout, and that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and cannot legitimately serve as president.

Comments

Anecdotal evidence, or maybe some other research, suggests that Fox News viewers are significantly misinformed. But I just read this poll, twice, and it does not draw this conclusion. The poll shows Republicans are more misinformed (but you'd only know this if you knew the correct answers to the questions asked). It asks what news media respondents use & how often. But there are no questions from which correlations could be drawn between those misinformed answers & the media the subjects read/watched/listened to.

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brunitedstatescanadara/671.php?nid=&id=&pnt=671&lb=

Ms. Judith Levine is so clearly wrong that I wondered if she even read the whole report. Any reasonable person even glancing through the report must conclude that Fox News systematically misinforms its viewers, in one case (scientific basis of global climate change) by a spread of 47% compared with NPR and 30% on average. This bias is not due to chance and is highly statistically significant. In fact, a recently leaked internal Fox News memo showed an executive directing news staff to slant climate change coverage against accurate reporting. See http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/archives/231930.asp
As far as showing Fox News misinforms its viewers, I quote from page 20 of the World Public Opinion report:

"There were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue.
Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that:
ƒ most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
ƒ most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
ƒ the economy is getting worse (26 points)
ƒ most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
ƒ the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
ƒ their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
ƒ the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
ƒ when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
ƒ and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)
These effects increased incrementally with increasing levels of exposure and all were statistically significant. The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican."

This section is followed by several pages of statistics showing that Fox News viewers topped the list of most misinformed people on each and every topic surveyed. It appears that unreality has a neoconservative bias (to paraphrase Mr. Colbert).

Pulled from p. 20 of the report itself:

"Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that:

- most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
- most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
- the economy is getting worse (26 points)
- most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
- the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
- their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
- the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
- when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
- and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

These effects increased incrementally with increasing levels of exposure and all were statistically significant. The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican."

So what exactly is "informed" or for that matter what is the "truth"? I think I know what an opinion is and I know I have one on any given fact but wouldn't any given source of "truth", say FOX, NBC or the New York Times also have filtered the facts through the guise of opinion to arrive at the "truth". I kind of expect that from the press, especially the modern press. Even education does not equal informed. Informed in one persons eyes is uninformed in anothers. I guess it just depends on your opinion of what is the "truth" and what is "informed".
I know this for sure, I have no clue as to whether I know the "truth" nor even the facts but I do have an opinion and about that I am sure.

So I guess for you the truth is some combination of opinion and fact? How about if we add up the number of republicans who voted FOR TARP and see if Fox is telling the "truth". This reminds me of what Fox usually does, it reports straight news factually correct and then lets Hannity, Oreilly, Beck, re-report it with as much nonsense as possible under the cover of "opinion". When I mean factually correct I mean reporting that there was protest at H. Clintons speach when the real story is that ONE guy with a sign walked up to the podium and was quickly shouted down by the audience and walked away. The intent was to show that Clinton had protesters while the truth is that she had HUGE support and ONE protester. Or how about the "200 million" a day spent on Obamas India trip. It was a false figure from a bogus source but the story running on Fox all day wasnt that this was nonsense but that Obama is denying that it is true. Most of the emphasis was in the collossal "200 million a day" figure and then on the "denial" of the president. Any real news organization wouldnt have even ran this after checking the facts.

Anon does bring up a valid point noting that the "truth" is not really a definable, reachable goal. Every news source passes its content through some sort of filter. The point is Fox News is especially bad - bad to the point where their viewers ignore what IS scientific fact for surrogate info that is direct propaganda for a political party. It's one thing to be simply expressing opinions, another to pass them as 'news', and yet another to express opinions that skirt the truth in lieu of self-promotion. The global warming issue is the most obvious example of this, as the study shows, and as other studies have cited as a cause for the recent waning interest in global warming. Simple misinformation, however, is not all that plagues Fox. A far larger is their political activism. It is a downright unacceptable practice in independent media. They have consistently had political candidates on their payroll. [ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/27/fox-news-has-nearly-all-p_n_740070.html ] I simply don't understand how one ever even considers this acceptable...The power of Murdoch's media machine is not simply pushing an ideology, but specific pushing candidates. Fox News is an antiquated political business. It's simply wrong. On top of that, it is the only mainstream* right-wing media. There's no room for diversity of conservative media because of the Fox News behemoth. How could a legitimate candidate like Ron Paul ever gain mass acceptance in a Fox-run world? If I were conservative, having Fox News control the conservative media the way it does would not make defend it, rather despise it more.

* I love how Fox News claims that is the counter to mainstream media, placing itself outside 'mainstream' even though their viewership dwarfs any other news networks'.

"Truth" may be tricky to define, but "Facts" can scientifically be tested.