* Actually, there isn’t one.
This is another one of those subjects I wanted to write about a few months ago but it fell on my back burner. Every so often we see some new study that “proves” that Fox News viewers are stupid. The latest one that came out a few weeks ago proved that your average Fox News viewer has an average IQ of 80. PJ Media’s Charlie Martin proceeded to dissect this study, first by contacting its author. The author didn’t give a full name, worked for some fictitious organization, used a bizarre methodology, and could not reveal who had commissioned the study nor is he going to release the study’s actual results. You can read both sides’ arguments in the two links above.
The study that caught my interest initially was the subject of an article by Ben Adler over at The Nation last May that was an entertaining read to say the least. It starts off by saying that the people over at “Fox News think they are despised by real journalists only because they are conservative and most journalists are liberal.” He then states that this is nonsense and proceeds to inform us that this is accuse their viewers are uninformed, as evidenced by a study done over at Fairleigh Dickenson Univeristy. Adler follows up by sharing some of the conclusions, and out of curiosity I did something radical and extremist – I looked at the study itself to see the source data behind these conclusions.
Naturally, Fox News viewers fared the worst. But then I looked closer at the breakdowns – the two lowest scoring groups were “Democrats Who Watch Fox News” and “Republicans Who watch MSNBC”. That should have sent up some flags, as someone of one ideology who listens to opposing views is probably going to be better informed than his peers who don’t. My guess is that these were some yahoos who were messing with the poll, and I’d be curious to see what the results looked like if they were excluded (raw numbers for how many people were in each category weren’t included). When you look at the overall Democrat vs. Republican in general the results were unsurprising. The gap was a lot closer, with each side scoring a little bit higher in different areas. Democrats fared a little better with the foreign policy questions, as I would expect considering NPR’s overseas coverage is a lot better than that of Fox News, in my opinion. And the GOP subjects did better on domestic politics, also unsurprising since two of the questions were regarding the Republican primaries. Personally I don’t think the primary questions were good to use either, since they give a small advantage to Republicans who would be more likely to be following these events in the news.
And at the end of Adler’s post there are six other studies that further prove the ignorance of Fox News viewers. Here is how each of them reach that conclusion:
1) The first one is on Global Warming, and unfortunately Adler’s link no longer works, but I think that the study he references is here. Basically, your “intelligence” is determined whether or not you believe in a religious cult whose beliefs are are built on lies and are impervious to scientific methodology.
2) How well do you understand the Obamacare? The Kaiser Family Foundation found out. Democrats scored better, but that’s because some of the survey’s answers are just flat wrong. One question where the “correct” answer is a negative to the statement that Obamacare will “Allow a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare.” Obama getting embarrassed over that got that piece of language stripped out, but IPAB remains. Yes, I’m getting into semantics, but any panel that has the power to reject certain drugs or procedures that could be used by someone on Medicare fits this description. Another is that “Cut benefits that were previously provided to all people on Medicare”. I’d call cutting $700B from a program to fund Obamacare a cut. And spare me that it’s being “paid for” by lowering reimbursement to doctors. Lower pay means fewer doctors accepting patients, and longer waits with the ones who still will.
3) Next, MSNBC chimes in on Health Care: Here’s another way to look at the misinformation: In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly.
The question on illegal immigrants was an interesting one, and had similar results in the Kaiser poll. To be honest I had no idea either way, and as much as I followed the debate I didn’t recall hearing anything way on this specific point. Does anyone else remember this? As for the government takeover? Check. That’s going to be the eventual outcome be as private insurers are regulated out of business. Of course, if you read how they worded the question above how do you survey people about predicting the future? And the abortion question? Planned Parenthood already gets taxpayer dollars, so it may not be a good question as to whether or not direct abortions are part of this bill. One other piece of the abortion question is getting a bit into semantics, but that’s why some drugs that businesses are being forced to cover are called “abortifacients”.
5) PIPA weighed in on the Iraq War, and I have to admit that the lefties have us on this one. The gist of the survey was around Iraq having ties to 9/11, WMD’s being found, whether or not Saddam had ties to Al-Queda and world perception. The only question I have a bone to pick with is the Al-Queda one, as some respondents might have mistaken it for ties terrorists in general, which Saddam certainly had. But aside from that I thought that of all of the surveys listed here this one had the best worded questions and details behind its methodology. I am surprised with this one’s results, as I watched Fox News back then quite a bit more than I do today and listened to Sean Hannity’s radio show (He has had a prime time show on Fox News for many years) during my then afternoon commute and don’t remember any of these misperceptions being preached, but the opinions are what they are.
Just so there’s no misunderstanding I still fully support taking out Saddam, but the reasons are too much of a tangent for this post. If you want to read in depth on the subject try Doug Feith’s book, or you can look here for a quicker summary. And no matter how good an argument one makes against the war, you’re never going to convince me that with everything else going on in the Middle East that Saddam still being around would be better, or that Iraq and Iran in a nuclear arms race would be a good idea.
6) World Public Opinion.org looked at misinformation around the 2010 election. They have an bone to pick with the Citizens United ruling – apparently Viacom, Disney, Comcast and the New York Times Corp. are the only corporations that are entitled to free speech. The first part of the survey is pretty useless, citing numbers of Americans who felt that they witnessed misinformation in ads prior to the election. I call this useless because my basic definition of misinformation is “An opinion expressed that you don’t agree with”, and yes this cuts across both sides of the aisle.What were the questions that the public got wrong? There were too many questions to address each one, but here are some highlights:
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that by the third quarter of 2010, the stimulus legislation had increased the number of full-time equivalent jobs by between two and five million. Other economists concurred that it had a positive effect on growth for the economy. However, most voters did not seem to have this information.
That’s great, as we can see every job that the government “created”, but how many did they destroy? Any first year economics student knows that every dollar spent or borrowed is a dollar not used toward private consumption or investment. And which “Other economists” agreed on the positive effect? Data-challenged preachers like Paul Krugman? Forgive us for not joining you in celebrating the high unemployment, low growth, and soaring deficits we’ve enjoyed under the Obama Presidency.
The second question was regarding whether or not Obamacare would decrease the deficit. The CBO scored it as such, but the CBO is only allowed to score based on the data that was given to it by this administration. In the world of data analysis this is what’s referred to as “Garbage in, garbage out”. If you haven’t seen the government’s track record on social programs coming in under cost or think that the way to make a good cheaper is to have the government take it over I’m not sure what to tell you. Other than that I have the lease to a bridge in New York City I’d be willing to sell you…
Another question was whether or not voters understood that the economy was already in recovery. While the technically correct answer is “yes” by the definition of recovery, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth fueled by government overspending and borrowing is just a house of cards, as we are slowly and painfully seeing.
Next up is our old favorite, Climate Change! “Do you think that MOST SCIENTISTS believe that 1) Climate change is occurring (correct) 2) Views are evenly divided, or 3) Climate change is not occurring.” Whoever came up with this question must have slept through his Research Methods class, specifically the day question formulation was discussed. Of COURSE climate change is occurring, everybody knows that! But most of us prefer to use the old fashioned term for it known as “weather.” A better way to have phrased that question might have been, “Do you think that MOST SCIENTISTS believe that changes in the weather are almost completely man made and our only hope for salvation is the biggest regressive (paid disproportionately by the poor) tax in world history to fund a new regulatory agency.” I would actually like to see the results if that question were posed.
The auto bailouts – 28% knew it was under both presidents, 16% said Bush, while 53% said Obama. Who was responsible wasn’t as important as the fact that a politically connected group got our money to continue failed business models. It’s also why I will never again buy a GM or Chrysler car (I loved the Saturn that I had back in the 90s) – I already was forced to pay for the whole company. For that matter, after what’s happened in Michigan lately with the union thugs I might have to add Ford to the list. Or as @iowahawkblog tweeted, “Support America! Buy a Japanese car. #MIUnion”
Only 43% knew that the stimulus included tax cuts. Again, by the letter of this question this is true, but I don’t consider renewing the Bush tax cuts or one time tax credits targeted toward favored industries (cash for clunkers, anyone?) something I should be thanking the president for.
One more – on where President Obama was born. The survey claims that only 56% knew that the president was born in the US. Once again we have a survey formed by people who slept through their Reseach Methods class. The way the question was worded even my response would have come down on the pro-birther side, as would anyone else’s who did even the most rudimentary homework on the president’s background. No, I’m not a birther and all that I have to say on this subject is, “Thank you, Donald Trump.”
While there were misinformed respondents everywhere, you’ve probably already guessed where the worst were – Fox News, of course!
So what do all of these studies tell us? Quite a bit, actually. Not about conservatives or Fox News viewers, but about the leftists who feel the need to continuously conduct these studies for their own self affirmation. I read a lot of conservative news sources, and I don’t recall seeing studies that tell us we’re more intelligent than those on the left. To make a broad generalization, I’d guess that if we surveyed every person from both ends of the spectrum I think we’d see more formal intelligence on the left and more common sense on the right. Say what you want about the lefties who will show you countless studies by buzzword compliant but experience deficient geniuses that prove things like how raising taxes will improve our economy and that our mounting debt doesn’t matter, but it takes some brain power to get an advanced degree and work in a highly specialized field. And for you lefties, you can laugh all you want at those knuckle dragging right wingers who watch Fox News and didn’t go to the same prestigious schools that you and your cohorts did, but it is also foolish to think that the only legitimate learning happens in the classroom. You can learn a great deal about the world and how to interpret events just by living your life and learning from what you see, and you can learn a great deal listening to what some people from this background have to say, like here, here, here, or here. The difference between the two sides is that conservatives don’t need an official study to reaffirm their judgment in the face of the cold facts behind a failed president and his failed economic policies.
I’m sure that in the next six to nine months we’ll see another study proving the mental superiority of the left, although it might be more constructive to study how the same people who howled about the terrible state of our economy from 2001 – 2008 can suddenly believe that a far worse economy is sign of presidential genius.
Who are you trying to convince, us or yourselves?
Cross posted from Brother Bob’s Blog