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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Friday, December 17, 2010

Study: American voters remarkably dumb; Republicans and FOX viewers moreso

by folkbum

A number of my comrades among the leftosphere are giddy that yet another study shows that Republicans and FOX News watchers are woefully misinformed about things, and hold beliefs that turn out to be the opposite of reality. BREAKING, as they say ironically, as that's not a surprise anymore.

But the new study in question (pdf), by the U of Maryland's, has, to my mind, a much scarier topline finding: Most American voters are misinformed.

The study seems to have asked 11 questions about current events that played out around and during the last election cycle plus the timeless chestnut of climate change*. Of the eleven, a majority of voting Americans got six wrong. Some were close--the question about whether the recession was over had 44% getting it right--but some were just stunningly wrong. Only 8% of voters, for example, knew the consensus view that the 2009 stimulus bill created or saved millions of jobs. (I would have answered all 11 correctly, but I pay way more attention than most people.)

To me, this is stunning, and it represents not merely a failure of partisan media (though MSNBC viewers did better than FOX viewers), but of media as a whole. Campaigns and candidates, too, seem to be failing (or succeeding, I suppose, if your aim is dissemblance), as well as political parties.

As for the partisan divide itself, Republicans are more likely to be wrong about five of the questions, Democrats three, and both on the remaining three. Heavy FOX News viewers were "significantly more likely to be wrong" about nine of them. 63% of daily FOX watchers think Barack Obama was not born in the US, or at least that the question isn't settled, for example.

To be fair, the choice of questions probably affected the results somewhat; I am sure that regular Fox & Friends viewers can tell you all about the latest wing specials from Hooters.

But I think there's nothing in this study for anyone to be proud of, regardless of one's political leanings or choice of news outlets. It's embarrassing, simply put.

* The climate change question asked respondents to say whether science was overwhelmingly on the side that changes are real or if it was evenly split. The loud (and, from where I sit, wrong) dissenters make up a tiny, tiny minority of voices on the issue--which even deniers ought to know to be true.

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