Once again we see some catnip for the left - a Fairleigh Dickinson research group has published a fairly ridiculous poll, and the HuffPo got so excited after the first few paragraphs that they stopped reading.
Here is the HuffPo headline and lead:
Fox News Viewers Know Less Than People Who Don't Watch Any News: Study
Fox News viewers are less informed than people who don't watch any news, according to a new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The poll surveyed New Jersey residents about the uprisings in Egypt and the Middle East, and where they get their news sources. The study, which controlled for demographic factors like education and partisanship, found that "people who watch Fox News are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government" and "6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government" compared to those who watch no news.
Overall, 53% of all respondents knew that Egyptians successfully overthrew Hosni Mubarak and 48% knew that Syrians have yet to overthrow their government.
That is accurate but woefully incomplete. Had the Huffers pressed on, they would have found this tidbit about their own friends on the left:
New Jerseyans are not necessarily more likely to be knowledgeable about domestic politics than international events. Just 47% are able to identify the Occupy Wall Street protesters as predominantly Democratic: 11 % think they are Republicans. Viewers of cable news on MSNBC are the most likely to think the protestors are Republicans. Watching the left-leaning MSNBC news channel is associated with a 10-point increase
in the likelihood of misidentifying the protesters.
Har de har! Those daffy lefties have got Cairo covered but can't even figure what side OWS is on! C'mon, Lean Forward and smell the coffee!
Or maybe, this whole poll has a deeply dubious methodology. Let's flash back to the question on Egypt - here we go, from the poll:
To the best of your knowledge, have the opposition groups protesting in Egypt been successful in bringing down the regime there?
Hmm. As a more-than-casual observer of the international scene, I infer that current events in Egypt suggest that the protestors are asking themselves that very question. Massive demonstrations certainly suggest some local angst about whether the military replacement of Mubarak really represented regime change they can believe in.
The poll was conducted from October 17 through Oct 23, 2011. I lack the character and commitment to essay the Fox archives, but let's check some NY Times headlines from October:
A NY Times editorial from Oct 13:
Egypt's Failing Army
... The army is increasingly at odds with the people and contributing to instability. Many Egyptians now understandably fear that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took over when Mr. Mubarak was pushed out, will do anything to retain power and keep ordinary citizens from exercising their political rights.
Meet the new boss. So as of Oct 17, those silly bunnys watching Fox weren't sure that protestors had "been successful in bringing down the regime there". And we still aren't sure, even if the Huffers and the Fairleigh Dickinson people are. Too bad the question didn't specifically cite Mubarak so we could have learned something.
As to methodology, I am deeply suspicious of this result:
By contrast, some media sources have a positive effect on political knowledge. For example, people who report reading a national newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today are 12-points more likely to know that Egyptians have overthrown their government than those who have not looked at any news source. And those who listen to the non-profit NPR radio network are 11-points more likely to know the outcome of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. However, the best informed respondents are those that watched Sunday morning news programs: leading to a 16-
point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Egypt and an 8-point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Syria.
"Sunday morning news shows tend to spend a lot more time on a single issue than other news broadcasts, and they are less likely to degenerate into people shouting at each other," said Cassino. "Viewers pick up more information from this sort of calm discussion than from other formats. Unfortunately, these shows have a much smaller audience than the shouters."
In a total sample of 612 respondents did they really find a statistically meaningful number of people who watch the Sunday talkies but are not news junkies devouring newspapers and the internet? That defies my credulity, but if they didn't, they have a huge covariance problem. My alternative hypothesis is that answering yes to "Watch Sunday shows" serves as a marker for high overall news consumption, not as evidence that the Sunday shows are uniquely informative.
Here is the question on news sources:
I’m going to read you a list of news sources. As I read the list, just say “yes” if you got news from that source any time in the past week.
Nothing about frequency or intensity of consumption. The gal who reads the Times and the WSJ on the train into work each day and religiously dials into the Sunday talkies is lumped in with the guy who picks up the NY Post for the football line and inadvertently caught a few minutes of the Sunday Fox show while getting ready for the football. Whatever.
And with the samll sample size, we have a large margin of error of +/- 3.5% for the whole group, and of course more for sub-groups. On the Egypt question, the "winners" were NPR with only 24% getting the "wrong" answer; Fox brought up the rear with 18% "incorrectly" indicating that regime change had not occurred. Statistically significant? Hardly.
All in all, a good job by the Fairleigh Dickinson team of self-promoting nothing into a bit of attention.
HMMM: Utterly uncritical recycling from Taegan Goddard; not his usual standard.
GETTING SOMEWHERE: Frances Martel of Mediaite picks up the OWS foible and provides some helpful bashing.
ALSO TOO EXCITED: David Taintor of TPMDC never reads as far as page 2.
QUESTIONS I HAVEN'T SEEN POLLED... How would a typical OWS protestor do on the seemingly simple question of whether the US had regime change with the election of Obama in 2008? Hmm, the Street-coddling Geithner moved to Treasury, Gates stayed in Defense, troops were added to Afghanistan, Gitmo is still open, the Bush tax cuts were extended... maybe the 1% simply tapped a new figurehead. I bet a lot would get it "wrong" (but they would, being Republican).
SECRET FOX VIEWERS: From a new report by Amnesty International:
Egypt's military rulers have completely failed to live up to their promises to Egyptians to improve human rights and have instead been responsible for a catalogue of abuses which in some cases exceeds the record of Hosni Mubarak, Amnesty International said today in a new report.
"The human rights balance sheet for SCAF [Supreme Council of Armed Forces] shows that after nine months in charge of Egypt, the aims and aspirations of the January 25 revolution have been crushed. The brutal and heavy-handed response to protests in the last few days bears all the hallmarks of the Mubarak era."