Fox News viewers from the great state of New Jersey make for one of the most entertaining studies of the year.
At least once a week the news cycle greets us with a new study—some more fatuous-sounding than others. There was one recently that claimed the earning threshold for maximum happiness is $75,000 per year, one that claimed women’s threshold for holding secrets is exactly 32 minutes (that one paid for by a cosmetic company), one that linked high IQ in children to a propensity for drug use later in life, and one that claimed using Facebook correlates to having a bigger brain.
We’re skeptical about most of these studies, including the one about Facebook giving us big brains—but we’re more inclined to believe a semi-related study whose findings are just being released: Fox News viewers are less accurately informed on current events than people who don’t watch news at all.
What’s more, Fox News viewers are way, way less informed than people who watch Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”
A study conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University of 612 New Jersey residents found Fox News viewers profoundly ill-informed on current events when compared to viewers of other networks and people who don’t watch any news. The studies had built-in controls to obviate partisan leanings, so that Republican/ Democratic affiliation didn’t materially affect the findings. New York Daily News reports:
Fox News fans flunked questions about Egypt and Syria when compared with people who don’t watch the news. Fox viewers were 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians toppled their government and 6 points less likely to be aware that Syrians have not yet overthrown theirs.
People who watched “The Daily Show” scored higher than Fox News viewers across the board, and were better by twelve points at identifying Occupy Wall Street protesters as more Democratically aligned than Republican.
According to NY Daily News, “The most informative outlets were found to be the Sunday morning news shows as well as outlets like the New York Times, USA today and NPR.”
Sure, you could argue that the study is inherently flawed because it only includes subjects from a state most famous for playing host to Snooki. But between its contributors like Sarah Palin flubbing elementary-school level US history (who can forget the famous Paul Revere gaffe?), or one of its main anchors Bill O’Reilly making enough factual errors in his book on Abe Lincoln to get it banned from one of the bookstores at Ford’s Theater, you can hardly blame Fox News viewers for having their facts screwed up.
After all, this is the network that famously placed Egypt in the Middle East instead of Africa in the below graphic from two years ago. If they can’t even get the geography right, how are they handling the rest of the geopolitics? The image below should give a pretty accurate indication of how Fox News viewers can actually be less informed about current events than those who just don’t watch anything.