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Study reveals people who watch Fox News are less informed than people who watch no news at all

Media outlets such as Fox News and MSNBC have a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge while NPR and Sunday morning political talk shows are the most informative sources of news, according to Fairleigh Dickinson University’s newest PublicMind survey.

Researchers asked 1,185 random nationwide respondents what news sources they had consumed in the past week and then asked them questions about events in the U.S. and abroad.

On average, people correctly answered 1.6 of 5 questions about domestic affairs.

Because the aim of the study was to isolate the effects of each type of news source, they then controlled for variables such as other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors.

They found that someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer 1.04 domestic questions correctly compared to 1.22 for those who watched no news at all. Those watching only “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” answered 1.42 questions correctly and people who only listened to NPR or only watched Sunday morning political talk shows answered 1.51 questions correctly.

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In terms of international news, people correctly answered an average of 1.8 of 4 questions.

With all else being equal, people who watched no news were expected to answer 1.28 correctly; those watching only Sunday morning shows figured at 1.52; those watching only “The Daily Show” figured at 1.60; and those just listening to NPR were expected to correctly answer 1.97 international questions.

Those watching only MSNBC were expected to correctly answer only 1.23 out of 4, while viewers of only Fox News figured at 1.08. The study noted that the effects of Fox News, MSNBC and talk radio depended on the ideology of the consumer.

“Ideological news sources, like Fox and MSNBC, are really just talking to one audience,” Political scientist and poll analyst Dan Cassino said in a press release. “This is solid evidence that if you’re not in that audience, you’re not going to get anything out of watching them.”

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Thus, those who watched no news—answering questions by guessing or relying on existing knowledge—fared much better than those who watched the most popular 24-hour cable news network (i.e. Fox News).

Cassino concluded that “the most popular of the national media sources—Fox, CNN, MSNBC—seem to be the least informative.”

It is a follow-up to a 2011 survey of 612 New Jerseyans that found, among other things, that those who watched Fox News were 18 points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all.

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. JDS

    January 30, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    And your point is? Huh? This outcome was obvious considering the stupidity of those who watch and believe Fox news! It’s the same lack of intelligence that votes Republican and listens to Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman and Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and and and and.

  2. M Piazza

    January 31, 2014 at 4:34 am

    Love the fact that people get more information from Jon Stewart from the Daily Show.

  3. Lou Busato

    January 31, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Palin is sooooo funny!!!!

  4. Eli

    January 31, 2014 at 5:54 am

    What I find most interesting is that the only news source that does a substantially better job of informing its audience than The Daily Show is NPR.

    The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart, is on Comedy Central. That’s right, Comedy Central does a better job informing its viewers than anyone other than NPR.

  5. Nathan Seymour

    January 31, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    MSNBC was just as bad. They’re both complete trash. CNN is barely even better than them.

  6. Bob guerrin

    January 31, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Well that settles that controversy. I will no longer watch any TV shows. I thought Egypt was still ruled by the Pharaohs. But being slightly on the right what did anyone expect. I also was stupid enough to think out Government is running well. Republican and Democrat.

  7. Rob Wallace

    January 31, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I would love to know the questions asked, because even the top of the ladder got less than 2/5 correct on domestic and 2/4 on international. That’s sad for everyone

  8. Morgan Powys

    January 31, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    I love how you pick and choose from the article. That didn’t just criticize Fox but that’s all you can see, I guess.

  9. Patti Hatfield

    February 1, 2014 at 12:13 am

    Well, look at who they have as “guest” speakers, Palin, Bauchman, and Cruz!! None of them ever tell the truth, they don’t know how!!

  10. Melwin

    February 1, 2014 at 2:15 am

    was this so called study funded by tax payers money ?

    Also, why should people give a damn about Egypt when its our government that needs to be thrown out.

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  13. ajd

    February 1, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    I was almost convinced that this study may have some validity until I started reading a little bit further on this page, then of course it is becomes blatantly obvious. Another unfortunate attempt to discredit people with a different opinion. Pitiful and sad really. Does it actually make you feel superior to insult people’s intelligence because they have a difference of opinion with you? Funny how the actual issues aren’t debated anymore, just insults are thrown back and forth rather than actually debating issues intelligently. Unfortunate.

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  15. Thekla

    February 2, 2014 at 1:34 am

    What were the questions? I’m not a fan of Fox news, but until we know what sort of material the questions addressed rather than the vague and sweeping “domestic affairs”, then this study doesn’t tell us much, if anything.

  16. alyce

    February 2, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    It was not about opinions, it was about factual information. Opinions, however, are often formed by facts. Those who are less informed as to actual facts, will then, likely form biased opinions.

    Rupert Murdoch (FOX owner) got his start in tabloid like journalism in his native Australia. It appears that he does likewise with FOX.

  17. alyce

    February 2, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I too am interested in the questions, because I am not sure I would be well informed about last week’s news events, even State of the Union address, as I tend to ignore news. Generally I read text of State of Union addresses; find them boring.

  18. William J. Green (@wjgreen_)

    February 2, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    In short, EVERYONE Failed your survey. Everyone, with an average score of 32% on domestic questions, equals F-.

    Besides the fact that you demonstrated how dumb and ignorant virtually all of America is you proved nothing other than that our ignorance ranges from 21% = F- to 39% = F-.

    And you only asked 5 questions that apparently were so obscure that it appears you set out to prove not how uninformed Fox viewers are but everyone, including yourselves!

    You should have included far more than just 5 questions — at least 10 — and you should have included questions that were readily answerable no matter which news outlet people watched.

    The fact you didn’t just proves your own ignorance about how to conduct a survey and get meaningful results.

  19. Jay

    March 21, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Pseudo researchers conduct a survey

  20. Dustin

    September 2, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Ummm did you not just read the study? Clearly it’s NOT “just as bad”. It’s not a whole LOT better, but it is better.

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