Interesting assumptions underlying a study about Fox viewers’ ignorance

The New York Times reported today on a study showing that the more one watchers Fox news, the less one knows:

In particular, they found that regular viewers of the Fox News Channel, which tilts to the right in prime time, were significantly more likely to believe untruths about the Democratic health care overhaul, climate change and other subjects.

The study found other cases where greater exposure to media meant greater misinformation on a subject. Regular viewers of MSNBC, which tilts to the left in prime time, were 34 percentage points more likely than non-viewers to believe “that it was proven that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates.” Consumers of public broadcasting were 25 points more likely to believe the same.

But the study found many more instances that involved Fox News.

“Almost daily” viewers of Fox News, the authors said, were 31 points more likely to mistakenly believe that “most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit;” were 30 points more likely to believe that “most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring;” and were 14 points more likely to believe that “the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts.”

They were also 13 points more likely to mistakenly believe “the auto bailout only occurred under Obama;” 12 points more likely to believe that “when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it;” and 31 points more likely to believe that “it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States.”

I find fascinating the assumptions underlying the conclusion that Fox viewers are idiots. The two primary assumptions are that (1) Climate change is real and apocalyptic; and (2) ObamaCare is good for the economy. An increasing cascade of news stories shows that both of these assumptions are, in fact, of dubious truth, at best, making the Fox viewers more, rather than less, news savvy.

The other assumptions are more nuanced. While it may be true that the auto bailout did not occur only under Obama, that’s a detail. Yes, the first big stimulus happened under Bush, but (a) it happened with a Democrat majority Congress and (b) it was Obama who was good enough, subsequently, to buy GM as a gift for the American people.

And yes, it’s true that many Republicans were idiots to go along with the original TARP, but it’s also true — and Fox News viewers’ have the right sense, if not the right grasp of minutiae — that it was the Democrats who went on an unprecedented spending binge once they entirely controlled both houses and the White House.

As for Obama’s place of birth, I’ll only say that, while I believe he was born in Hawaii, his rigid refusal to release his original birth documents (not to mention his education transcripts and other pivotal papers) leaves a gaping factual hole that people are pretty free to fill in as they please.

Cross posted at Bookworm Room

UPDATE::  I’m not the only one who found that report suspect.

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