Jon Stewart Was Right About Fox 'News' Viewers Being the Most Misinformed Citizens
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Fox News' attempts at humor have failed miserably over the years. Think of its snooze-fest “comedies” -- shows like the “ Red Eye” (filler broadcast at 3am) and the rapidly canceled “ 1/2-Hour News Hour.” But its capacity for unintentional humor is truly unparalleled.
On Monday, the Fox Nation website featured a report about Jon Stewart's much-discussed dustup with Chris Wallace last weekend. During the back and forth, Stewart asked Wallace, “in polls, who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers? The most consistently misinformed?” His answer: “Fox viewers. Consistently. Every poll.”
Fox Nation offered a sneering rebuttal to that claim, dismissing it as yet more evidence of the Vast Liberal Conspiracy to oppress conservatives. The piece would be hilarious if not for the fact that it casts the Right's counterfactual worldview in sharp relief.
The site answered Stewart by posting the results of some Fox viewer polls and then asking, "Does this sound misinformed to you?"
• 91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
• 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
• 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
• 60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
Does this sound misinformed? Why, yes, very much so! Maybe a step above the level of angry seniors whose hypertension spikes over right-wing chain-emails, but just a step, and there's plenty of audience overlap.
On the first point: as the Washington Post reported last summer, “Obama's much-maligned economic stimulus package added as many as 3.3 million jobs to the economy during the second quarter of this year, and may have prevented the nation from lapsing back into recession, according to a report released Tuesday by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.” Yet nine out of 10 Fox viewers believe the opposite to be true.
The CBO also said that the Affordable Care Act will decrease projected deficits in the future, and that repealing it would make our fiscal outlook significantly worse. Seven out of 10 Fox viewers believe the opposite to be true.
The consensus among economists is that the U.S. economy is in a very sluggish, lackluster period of recovery. A few predict that we may be heading toward a “double-dip” recession at some point in the future, but I'm unaware of a single expert, anywhere on the political spectrum, who would argue that the economy is now actually getting worse than it has been over the past three years. Yet seven out of 10 Fox viewers believe it is.
Here, via Seeking Alpha, is a graphic presentation of some key economic indicators. It's clear that we're suffering through a disastrously sluggish recovery from an extraordinarily painful crash, but those lines are nonetheless trending upward, not downward, since hitting the trough in 2009.
(click for larger version)
And 60 percent of Fox viewers believe that climate change isn't occurring, which means that 60 percent think that virtually all of the world's climatologists are engaged in a grand conspiracy to deceive the public in order to … well, to destroy capitalism, according to some of the more unhinged conservative voices in the debate. That should come as no surprise – a leaked memo from Fox News' Washington managing editor ordered the network's correspondents to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."
But all that's just a punchline. The joke is that in an attempt to push back against the demonstrably accurate claim that Fox viewers are the most misinformed news consumers, Fox Nation… misinformed its readers.