During his epic interview with Chris Wallace on Sunday Jon Stewart trotted out the last year’s much-blogged about study that stated FOX Viewers were the most misinformed in the country.
During the interview Wallace didn’t counter Stewart’s claim (other than to show a Comedy Central clip from 2005) however, Politifact, the non-partisan fact-checking organisation has done some digging.
Conclusion? Not so much.
But wait, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Politifact dug through a number of recent studies on the topic and concluded results had less to do with the answers FOX viewers gave, which actually put them on par with the national average. In fact in one study FOX scored higher than CNBC and a slew of local news stations.
And once again, particular Fox shows scored well above the average. Hannity & Colmes was one of only four choices to exceed 40 per cent — the others were the New Yorker/the Atlantic, NPR and MSNBC’s Hardball — while The O’Reilly Factor scored 28 per cent, or 10 points above the national average. (Hannity & Colmes even exceeded Stewart’s Daily Show in this poll, 42 per cent to 30 per cent.)
Hannity and Colmes! Who would have guessed. But it gets better!
For the first time, Pew included Glenn Beck in its rankings, and the Fox host finished 12th — slightly ahead of Stewart’s own Daily Show.
Now that would make for a great quiz show idea: Daily Show vs. Beck viewers.
Politifact’s real issue, however, is that some of the questions were badly set up.
One question from the study that struck us as one that ordinary Americans might answer differently than economists asked, “Do you think now that the American economy is (a) starting to recover, or (b) still getting worse?” The study based the “correct” answer — that the economy has begun to recover — on the widely accepted judgment of when the last recession ended, as well as gross domestic product estimates and statistics for personal income. However, given the phrasing of the question, a respondent might think the question was asking for a personal opinion of how the recovery was going, rather than what the official statistics say.
And this, which was actually also noted in the results of the original poll which caused such an uproar.
So we have three Pew studies that superficially rank Fox viewers low on the well-informed list, but in several of the surveys, Fox isn’t the lowest, and other general-interest media outlets — such as network news shows, network morning shows and even the other cable news networks — often score similarly low. Meanwhile, particular Fox shows — such as The O’Reilly Factor and Sean Hannity’s show — actually score consistently well, occasionally even outpacing Stewart’s own audience.
Conclusion? Watching too much cable TV probably makes you less smart. Also, Politifact gives Stewart at ‘false.’
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