Skip to comments.Fox News fans misinformed, study finds
Posted on 10/17/2003 8:03:21 AM PDT by jdege
BY BRIAN LAMBERT
One of Jay Leno's best shticks is "Jaywalking," when he manages to find more or less average Americans who know, or at least appear to know, almost nothing about the world beyond Entertainment Weekly.
Show them a picture of Abe Lincoln, and they're stumped. "Is he the guy from Smashmouth?" Ask them to name two countries that border the United States, and you get, "Covina? Azuza? I don't know." It's scary - these people could be called for jury duty or placed in middle management. But it gets scarier yet, apparently, when you start asking 3,334 randomly selected adult Americans what they think has been going on in Iraq and where they learned what they think they know.
For the past year, the Program on International Policy Attitudes, or PIPA, a consortium organized through the University of Maryland, has been using a California-based research group called Knowledge Networks (and existing Roper polling data) to test what Americans know and how they came to know it.
Since June, PIPA has been refining data that showed disturbing misperceptions related to the following three questions:
- "Is it your impression that the U.S. has or has not found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaida terrorist organization?"
- "Since the war with Iraq ended, is it your impression that the U.S. has or has not found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?"
- "Thinking about how all the people in the world feel about the U.S. having gone to war with Iraq, do you think the majority of people favor the U.S. having gone to war?"
The survey was released late last week, and the news of it was this: Those who cited Fox News as their primary news source were far more likely to harbor fundamental misperceptions about one or more of these three questions than those who cited National Public Radio or PBS as their primary sources for news.
I know, I know. You're shocked.
But for all the anecdotal information, opinions and accusations, here was a comprehensive survey with a thoroughly professional, scientific methodology. We don't get enough of that.
Eighty percent of the 3,334 respondents said their primary news source was television or radio networks. Of that figure, 18 percent cited Fox News as their primary news source. A mere 3 percent cited NPR or PBS. (Thirty percent cited two or more sources; CNN 16 percent, NBC 14 percent, ABC 11 percent, CBS 9 percent.)
Twenty percent cited newspapers and magazines as their primary news source.
On the question of a link between Saddam and al-Qaida, a frankly startling 67 percent of the Fox News primary-source crowd believed this to be true. It's a claim that was one of the centerpieces of the Bush administration war policy but has never been proved, and, as PIPA asserts, is now largely dismissed by the intelligence community (and lately the White House itself).
It is probably no great solace to NPR and PBS that 16 percent of listeners glued to them also believe the Saddam-Osama link. But last time I checked, 67 percent was more than four times greater than 16 percent.
On the question of whether we have found weapons of mass destruction, a matter of enormous controversy heavily reported in every major source, 33 percent of Fox News watchers somehow still believe that we have. (The president at one point said we did.) Only 17 percent of those consuming mostly print media thought so, and only 11 percent of the NPR-PBS crowd was operating under the same rather astonishing misperception.
On the matter of world opinion, 35 percent of Fox News-viewing respondents believe world opinion supported the U.S. war with Iraq, while only 5 percent of the NPR-PBS crowd believed this in the face of almost daily international criticism and/or consternation.
The study also made an effort to gauge the quantity of time spent consuming news from a specific source and the relation between additional exposure and misperceptions of these three issues.
The conclusion: "While it would seem that misperceptions are derived from a failure to pay attention to the news, overall, those who pay greater attention to the news are no less likely to have misperceptions. Among those who primarily watch Fox, those who pay more attention are more likely to have misperceptions. (My emphasis.) Only those who primarily get their news from print media, and to some extent those who primarily watch CNN, have fewer misperceptions as they pay more attention."
I wish I could say this surprised me.
I think all of the questions are bad questions, but this one is a doozy. Given its formulation, its asking if over 3 Billion people favor the US going to war. Does it matter? Do we know? Was there a poll?
The Program on International Policy Attitudes Misinformed, Fox News Fans Study Finds.
The same for the WMD evidence.
"Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face." - Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998
"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983." - Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998
"Hussein has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies." - Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999
"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." - Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." - Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002
"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..." - Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002
"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002
"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real." - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003
I guess all these people have or had misconceptions too...I just simply call it hypocrisy and selling out the security and honor of your country after it was attacked countless times for a freaking vote. First WTC attack; The leader of that attack as well as three others involed came into the US with Iraqi passports. `Nuff said.
"No democ rat! No no no no!! We see what you do in America! No no no!"
this from the ivory tower, er, throne? sheesh. flush twice.