November 30, 2011

Viewers of Fox News are Misinformed

Fox NewsReplication is a fundamental part of scientific research. Supporting a hypothesis once is not enough; the findings must be replicated before scientists will be satisfied. In this arena, having seven studies that support a particular claim may or may not be impressive. It would depend on the context. For example, seven studies supporting the efficacy of prayer would not be worth much if several times that many failed to support it. But what if seven studies yielded the same or highly similar results in the absence of any evidence to the contrary? That would be enough to make us sit up and take note.

This probably will not come as a shock to most of you, but there have now been seven studies indicating that viewers of Fox "News" are misinformed about reality. What makes this noteworthy is not only the number (i.e., 7) but that there is apparently no counter-evidence.
There really does seem to be a “Fox News effect,” then, and one that is playing a central role in driving our political divide over reality in the U.S. And now comes a true tour-de-force seventh study showing that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed, this time once again about global warming.
What I find most remarkable about this line of research is that the "Fox News effect" holds up across many subjects (e.g., climate change, health care, the Iraq war).

It is important to note that the studies to date are correlational, meaning that it would be a mistake to interpret the results as indicating that watching Fox "News" causes someone to be misinformed. While the results are consistent with this possibility, it is also possible that misinformed people seek out media like Fox or that another variable explains the association.

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