The other day I noticed a rather smug post on one of NZ’s larger left wing blogs that pointed out a “oh-so-scientific” survey that found (once again) that conservatives (or in this case, anyone watching Fox news) were more stupid.
Now, I found this disconcerting. While every previous survey of this sort has been found to be composed mainly of horse excrement, perhaps this one had finally done the job. After all, they must have surveyed people on non-partisan facts that were quite easily established, right? Stuff like, “Obama is president”, “There are 50 states in the USA” etc.
It’s really kind of a tedious thing. Every week or so, liberals come up with another allegedly scientific study declaring that conservatives are stupid, misinformed, psychologically abnormal or something. Today, it comes from an organization I never heard of before, called World Public Opinion. This study is being touted by the spectacularly misinformedTPM as proof that Fox News leaves viewers misinformed.
I do wonder if any organisation called “World Public Opinion” should be taken seriously at all!
But the hilarious part is that the authors of the study themselves are misinformed. For instance, their first question is this “is it your impression that most economists who have studied it estimate that the stimulus legislation: A) created or saved several million jobs, B) saved or created a few jobs, or C) caused job losses.” The first option is marked as correct.
In other words, they picked something highly contentious and found an angle to make it sound objective. The stimulus has been a massive disaster, bringing massive debts while unemployment is higher than anyone thought possible. The only way that they’ve been able to claim it’s success is the “or saved” weasel words. What this has meant in many cases is that anyone who gets stimulus funding puts down all their employees as “saved”.
Here’s the questions that “tripped” Fox news viewers:
There were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue.
Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that:
- most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
- most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
- the economy is getting worse (26 points)
- most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
- the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
- their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
- the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
- when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
- and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)
Of those, the first three are clearly based on contentious political viewpoints. As a survey question, the 6th is outright stupid. It seems to be saying that people don’t know their own personal finance as well as the survey. The 7th is again dependent on definitions, depending on what you mean by the auto bailout (Bush simply allowed car companies into the Bank bailout scheme).
But this is picking hairs. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that liberals and conservatives are going do disagree on these questions, and that a network that encourages viewpoints not found on other networks would deliver different results.
What is really telling is that the above 9 questions are questions that Republicans were clearly more likely to take an opposite position to the survey’s “factual” one. It doesn’t take a megamind to work out that a Republican is going to assume a Democrat has raised taxes, or that more Republicans are suspicious of Obama’s birth regardless of the evidence. Yet there are only 2 listed questions that I can see that are “red flag” to Democrats – that they opposed TARP (they didn’t) and that the US chamber of commerce used foreign money to support Republican candidates. It’s not like there isn’t material – websites being open to foreign donations, “57 states”, links to corrupt politicians, the list is lengthy.
Actually, I’m amazed at the third question on the “Democrats got it wrong” list. How on earth could you be so enamored of Obama so as to miss the widely announced news that he sent a surge of troops to Afghanistan?
To me, it’s the “About Equal” chart on page 17 that seals the deal. You have 3 questions which Democrats were about the same as Republicians, yet 2 of these are clearly designed to catch Republicans.
So we have a survey where “facts” are selected that will clash with one or both political viewpoints, but which heavily skews towards questions that clash with one.
In other words, it’s just the same as all the others. Maybe next time, eh?