17 December 2010

(Almost) No Comment: Fox News is the American Pravda

"In most cases those who had greater levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation. There were, however, a number of cases where greater exposure to a particular news source increased misinformation on some issues.

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 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."*

* Source: Here.



Blogger eugev44 said...

While I wholeheartedly support not watching the "news", Fox "news" especially, there seems to me to be an issue with the conclusions drawn by such a survey.

The study shows correlation, but then draws conclusions that in fact the act of watching the news causes such misinformation. What about self-selection? Wouldn't people choose a news source based on how critical they were willing to be while watching? Or wouldn't people accept information from a news source more-so if it aligned with their preconceptions? For those answering the question of the auto bailout wrong, for example, it may not mean that watching the news "caused" this information, but rather that their preconceptions about Obama are such that they are willing to attach certain characteristics to him without being critical.

Is there something I am missing in terms of the correlation vs. causation aspect here? It is possible that I am, and I am open to being enlightened in this case.

18 December, 2010 12:52  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Self-selection is always a problem. Maybe the already ignorant choose to watch FOX? But this was a random sample survey. So unless the conclusion is that FOX panders to the already ill-informed, rather than taking those of normal intelligence and filling their heads will bullshit, the correlations seem pretty telling. Those who regularly view a number of the other networks (including msnbc, npr,etc.) showed very particular forms of mis-information. Fox showed it pretty much across the board. The results seem robust. And even if there is self-selection of some sort, do we want networks to reinforce ignorance or mitigate it?

19 December, 2010 15:41  

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