links for 2010-12-17

  • The winner of first annual PhD Challenge has been announced. The challenge was to have published a peer-reviewed, academic paper that employs, somewhere within it, the phrase "I smoke crack rocks." Three people managed the feat, and the winner was a CMU student who managed to weave the phrase in pretty seamlessly.
  • A survey by the University of Maryland has found that Fox News viewers are deeply misinformed on issues of public policy. Not uninformed, but MISinformed—they believe a lot of things that simply aren't true, such as that the economy is worsening, Republicans congressmen opposed TARP, or that income taxes have gone up under Obama. And that's true no matter the political affiliation of the individual.
    (tags: foxnews)

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

3 replies on “links for 2010-12-17”

  1. And what did the survey find about MSNBC viewers? Funny how you conveniently left that out. ::rolls eyes::

  2. ? I don’t have no interest whatsoever in MSNBC—I can’t see why I would deliberately omit any findings about them. (In fact, I’ve never seen MSNBC, at least that I can remember.) But, looking at the results, they were a lot less striking than the Fox results. From the summary:

    There were cases with some other news sources as well. Daily consumers of MSNBC and public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) were higher (34 points and 25 points respectively) in believing that it was proven that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates. Daily watchers of network TV news broadcasts were 12 points higher in believing that TARP was signed into law by President Obama, and 11 points higher in believing that most Republicans oppose TARP.

    That was a much less substantial effect than Fox News viewership, the viewers of which were stunningly misinformed on a broad cross section of current events by substantial margins.

  3. Here’s some more detail about what the survey found about MSNBC viewers in comparison to what it found about Fox viewers. Looking at just the category of people who said they watched Fox or MSNBC “almost every day,” here are the results for the different questions they were asked:

    “Most economists who have studied the stimulus legislation estimate that it saved or created a few jobs or caused job losses”: 91% of Fox viewers believe this untrue statement, compared to 64% of MSNBC viewers.

    “Among economists who have estimated the effect of health reform law on the federal budget deficit over the next ten years, more think it will increase the deficit”: 72% of Fox viewers believe this untrue statement, compared to 45% of MSNBC viewers.

    “Most scientists think that climate change is not occurring + views are divided evenly”: 60% of Fox viewers believe this untrue statement, compared to 20% of MSNBC viewers.

    “The stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts”: 63% of Fox viewers believe this untrue statement, compared to 34% of MSNBC viewers.

    “The bailout of GM and Chrysler occurred under Pres. Obama only (not Bush as well)”: 56% of Fox viewers believe this untrue statement, compared to 32% of MSNBC viewers.

    It kind of goes on and on like that. The only question I found where MSNBC-almost-every-day viewers had a higher percentage of “I believe the untrue thing” answers was on “It was proven that the Chamber of Commerce was spending foreign money to back Republicans” (60% of MSNBC viewers said they believed it, but only 23% of Fox viewers did). MSNBC viewers were relatively close to Fox viewers in their misinformation on who signed the TARP legislation (Fox viewers ten points higher than MSNBC viewers in believing mistakenly that Obama signed it) and in mistakenly believing that most Republicans opposed TARP (another ten point difference, not in Fox’s favor). But it appears that on all the other questions, Fox viewers are like 20 points more likely than MSNBC viewers to believe a lie.

    So, yeah, it does seem like the big story here is not the level of misinformation that MSNBC viewers labor under (because that level seems about in the middle on the continuum of all news sources that were considered), but that the Fox viewers led the pack in terms of how many of them believed lies.

    FWIW, I don’t watch any television news. NPR, NY Times, WashPo, and (for giggles) Daily Progress.

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