A May 5 study from Fairleigh Dickinson University is making news today after one of its findings seemingly indicated that Fox News has the least-informed national audience, while NPR has the best-informed.
The study even “determined” that many people who watch no news at all are more informed than those who watch Fox News, and, of course, people who watch the Daily Show are more informed than both of the above.
According to the report, a total of 1,185 individuals nationwide were asked what news sources they had utilized that week, and then were quizzed on a variety of domestic and international issues. The study took place between February 6 and 12, 2012.
The analysis explains:
The study concludes that media sources have a significant impact on the number of questions that people were able to answer correctly. 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.
Results for questions about international current events were similar… [Emphasis added]
Less reported is the highly suspect methodology, which oversampled Republicans “to get a better estimate of the Republican voting process,” but also greatly increasing the Republican margin of error.
So what were some of the questions that Fox viewers apparently failed?
1) To the best of your knowledge, have the opposition groups protesting in Egypt been successful in removing Hosni Mubarak?
2) How about the opposition groups in Syria? Have they been successful in removing Bashar al-Assad?
3) 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?
4) There have been increasing talks about economic sanctions against Iran. What are these sanctions supposed to do?
5) Which party has the most seats in the House of Representatives right now?
6) In December, House Republicans agreed to a short-term extension of a payroll tax cut, but only if President Obama agreed to do what? (Open-Ended)
7) 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? (Open-Ended)
8) How about the New Hampshire Primary? Which Republican won that race? (Open-Ended)
9) According to the figures, about what percentage of Americans are currently unemployed? (Open-Ended)
How many did you answer correctly?
In all odds, the study is only gaining national notoriety because it fits the anti-Fox narrative of most of the media.
But does it really? MSNBC received similarly low scores, and their numbers were not oversampled. In fact, if this graph showing knowledge of domestic affairs is to be believed, the people who ended up the most misinformed were conservatives who made the mistake of watching MSNBC. The only people who ended up misinformed after watching Fox, on the other hand, were liberals:
Fairleigh Dickinson isn’t the first university to conduct such a study. You may remember The Blaze’s story from 2010 about the University of Maryland’s similar report that found Fox News viewers were the most “misinformed.” You also may remember that one person who took the time to comb through it found it to be “bogus.”