Warning: ‘Greater Exposure’ To Fox News Will Lead To ‘Increased Misinformation’ On Policy Issues

Last week, World Public Opinion (WPO) released a poll exploring political information in a post-Citizens United national election and found that 90 percent of voters “said that in the 2010 election they encountered information they believed was misleading or false, with 56% saying this occurred frequently.” More troubling, the poll also found “strong evidence that voters were substantially misinformed on many of the key issues of the campaign.” WPO said that voter misinformation contained beliefs about current issues such as TARP, the Recovery Act, health care reform, the economy, and climate change that were “at odds with the conclusions of government agencies, generally regarded as non-partisan, consisting of professional economists and scientists.”

WPO found one bright spot in its lengthy report: “Those who had greater exposure to news sources were generally better informed. In the great majority of cases, those with higher levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation.” However, there was one exception, Fox News:

There were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue. Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that:

— Most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely) (91 percent of those who watch Fox News “almost every day”)


— Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points) (72 percent)

— The economy is getting worse (26 points) (72 percent)

— Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points) (60 percent)

— The stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points) (63 percent)

Their own income taxes have gone up (14 points) (49 percent)

The auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points) (56 percent)

— When TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) (38 percent)

— And that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)(63 percent)

As Mark Howard at AlterNet notes, this data coincides with results of previous surveys finding that Fox News viewers are more misinformed about public policy issues. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out last year found that Fox News viewers were overwhelmingly misinformed about health care reform proposals. A 2008 Pew study ranked Fox News last in the number of “high knowledge” viewers and a 2007 Pew poll ranked Fox viewers as the least knowledgable about national and international affairs. And a 2003 study from the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that Fox News viewers were most likely to believe that Saddam Hussien had links to Al-Qaeda, that coalition troops found WMD in Iraq, and that world public opinion supported President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.