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Study finds Fox News viewers more likely to be misinformed on basic political facts
People who regularly watch Fox News are more likely to be incorrect on a wide range of major issues. But the audiences of MSNBC, PBS and National Public Radio are frequently better informed than most, according to a new study by the University of Maryland.
However, the study, entitled “Misinformation and 2010 Elections,” said the misinformation could not be attributed to one news source. In large part, the entire survey found much of the public did not understand the truth behind a variety of topics. Only 10 percent of respondents knew their federal income taxes had gone down in the last two years, although about 97 percent of households received a tax cut in the federal stimulus package. In fact, 38 percent said their taxes had gone up, although no income taxes for any level have been raised.
Although nearly a third of the stimulus — about $288 billion — was tax cuts, 54 percent believed it did not contain any tax cuts.
Only 28 percent knew the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler were initiated under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, 40 percent believed TARP, the Wall Street bailout program to buy up toxic assets, was done under the Obama administration, and a mere 13 percent understood most economists and the Congressional Budget Office believe the health care reform legislation will decrease the national deficit.
The study finds Fox News viewers to be the more likely to be incorrect with each incremental increase of exposure to Fox. The respondents who watched Fox News on a daily basis were at times twice as likely to be wrong as those who never watched Fox. Furthermore, the study found it was not a partisan divide. The respondents who watched Fox, but voted Democratic were just as likely to be incorrect as those Fox viewers who voted Republican.
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)
The study released last week by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland surveyed people in the aftermath of 2010 elections. About 59 percent of the respondents voted Republican.
Those who participated in the study ranked the state of the economy as their biggest factor in their vote, although Republican voters also ranked the budget deficit and the health care reform package passed by Congress highly as well. Both Democrats and Republicans ranked the possibility of foreign money being used by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to influence the election as low in influence for their vote.
Another notable finding was the audience of public broadcasting — NPR or PBS — and MSNBC were less likely to be incorrect on most issues.
For each topic, the news source with the lowest level of misinformation among its daily consumers was as follows:
• most economists who have studied it estimate that the stimulus legislation saved or created only a few jobs or caused job losses: MSNBC, 65% misinformed
• among economists who have estimated the effect of the health reform law, more think it will increase the deficit: Public broadcasting (NPR or PBS), 38%
• the bank bailout legislation (TARP) was passed and signed into law under Pres. Obama: MSNBC, 38%
• the US economy is getting worse: Public broadcasting (NPR or PBS), 34%
• the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts: MSNBC, 34%
• the bailout of GM and Chrysler occurred under President Obama only: MSNBC, 32%
• since January 2009 the respondent’s federal income taxes have actually gone up: MSNBC, 27%
• it is unclear whether Obama was born in the US—or, Obama was not born in the US: Public broadcasting (NPR or PBS), 24%
• when TARP came up for a vote, Democrats were opposed or divided: Fox News, 21%
• when TARP came up for a vote, most Republicans opposed it: CNN, 28%
• it was proven that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending foreign money to back Republicans: Fox News, 23%
• most scientists think climate change is not occurring or views are divided evenly: MSNBC and public broadcasting (NPR or PBS), both 20%
More than half of respondents also claimed they encountered a higher than usual amount of misinformation during the 2010 elections.