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Viewers of Fox News – and to a lesser extent MSNBC — are less informed about some current events than are those who watch no news, according to a new poll being hailed by some and dismissed by others.
Pollsters at Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey asked 612 New Jerseyans five questions pertaining Occupy Wall Street, the Republican primary race and events in Egypt and Syria to figure out which news outlets claim the best- or least-informed audience.
The question getting the most attention, and being trumpeted loudest on left-wing blogs, is whether or not protestors in Egypt have brought down Hosni Mubarak or not. Only 49 percent of Fox News’ viewers answered correctly (yes) while 57 percent of MSNBC’s viewers came up with the right answer. Viewers of NPR and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart scored highest with 68 percent answering correctly.
As for Occupy Wall Street, the poll asked whether protestors were primarily Republicans or Democrats, and 14 percent of MSNBC viewers answered Republicans, which is incorrect, while 13 percent of Fox News viewers answered Republicans.
The University’s PublicMind Poll was commissioned by WFDU-FM, a public affairs radio station in Teaneck, New Jersey.
While the poll claims that viewers of Fox News are more misinformed than those who view no news, PublicMind’s Daniel Cassino acknowledges that “models” were used to “extrapolate” whether or not someone was a watcher of news or not, therefore he couldn’t say how many of the 612 polled watched no news. He also described a complicated formula that strips out variables such as education levels in order to determine whether watching Fox News was really to blame for misinformation.
In the Egypt question, he said, watching Fox News made you 18 percent more likely to not know Mubarak was overthrown, while watching MSNBC made you 3 percent less likely to know.
They asked only five knowledge questions, Cassino said, because, “that’s how much the radio station paid for. And to be honest, people don’t like answering knowledge questions because it makes them feel stupid and they hang up. They like opinion questions more.”
Naturally, conservatives are picking apart the poll while liberals are embracing it. The left-wing watchdog group Media Matters For America posted the poll along with six others that came before it from different outlets that also demeaned viewers of Fox News. And at Mediaite.com, they’re arguing amongst themselves. One writer calls the poll “questionable academic work” because of a small sample size in a small area of the country, and because of “the questionable language used by the professors” who are “exaggerating the importance of their work.” An article at the same site, though, is headlined: “That ill-informed Fox News viewer poll? Actually it’s based on proven methodology.”
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