More proof that Fox news deliberately misinforms its viewers, and WHY watching Fox news leads people to do worse than those who don’t watch any news at all.

A recent study by Fairleigh Dickinson University, known as the PublicMind poll, found that some news leaves people knowing less.

The most revealing highlights of this study were the comparisons made between Fox news viewers and those who don’t watch any news at all.

Fox news viewers were 18 points less likely than those who don’t watch any news at all to know that the people of Egypt overthrew their corrupt Government, and 6 points less likely to know that the people of Syria were not yet successful in overthrowing their corrupt Government.

Dan Cassino, political science professor, and one of the analysts for this PublicMind poll, “Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News.  Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all.”

What is it about watching Fox news that grossly misinforms its viewers?

Simply put, Fox “frames” facts!  Here is a brief summary of this framing effect.

–       According to the Fox news network, Liberals are taking money away from hard-working Americans through “tax and spend” policies, and are using the revenues to support “wasteful Government programs” (EPA, FDA, Dept. of Energy) and giving free stuff to “welfare recipients” who don’t deserve it!  Liberals are also bankrupting our country through funding of “entitlement programs” (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid).

In reality, here are the facts!

Conservative politicians are taking money away from hard-working Americans by favoring a tax policy that continues to lower taxes on the top 1% (while increasing the burden on the bottom 99%)

The revenues generated are going straight to the top 1%, since this elite group now enjoys an historic low 35% tax rate, as opposed to the average rate of more than double this figure throughout the 20th century.

The Environmental protection agency (EPA) and other Government agencies are being “framed” as wasteful, since keeping our air clean to breathe and our water safe to drink is cutting into the profits made by this elite group.

As far as giving free stuff to those who don’t deserve it, billions of taxpayer dollars are given to corporate jet owners, and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are given to dirty energy (oil, coal, gas) companies that don’t need them!

We are not going bankrupt because of providing health care to sick and elderly people in need.  We have a massive deficit because we have continuously lowered the top tax rate on millionaires and billionaires, and because of two unfunded wars president Bush decided to “frame” as necessary to bring freedom to the Middle East.

In the end, there is something about watching Fox news.

Fox is the poster child for the common “frames” being generated by right-wing think tanks and language experts that are used to convince us of an ideology that appears to make sense, but one that is detrimental to our health and well being, as well as our intellect!

As this study shows, such deliberate misinformation by Fox news stands in direct contrast to those who listen to NPR (non-profit radio station), or read the New York Times, for instance, and the best informed people were those who watched Sunday morning news programs.

According to Dan Cassino, “the real finding is that the results depend on what media sources people turn to for their news.”

Bottom line:  We have a choice.  We can continue to be victims of the Fox news framing effect, or we could actually learn something about our country and the world from watching Sunday morning news, listening to NPR, or reading the New York Times.





5 thoughts on “More proof that Fox news deliberately misinforms its viewers, and WHY watching Fox news leads people to do worse than those who don’t watch any news at all.

  1. For me, the larger question is, “How does one open the minds of viewers to different sources of information?” ALL “news” programming is biased; some more than others. Dogging Fox News out is actually counter-productive, since cognitive dissonance and the “backfire effect” tend to kick in when any believer is challenged with overwhelming evidence.

    I’m open to other suggestions, but my personal plan is to measure media bias as objectively as possible. Creating awareness without confrontation is the first step, in my humble opinion.

    1. I agree that cognitive dissonance is relevant when dealing with the realm of psychology. We all do things to justify our actions and beliefs for many reasons including reducing dissonance. However, by not contesting Fox news and other media sources for blatantly misinforming the public, and framing facts to support an ideology that is detrimental to our health and well-being, we are effectively embracing, or at least passively accepting the status quo.

      To address your question of how one opens the minds of viewers to different sources of information. We can start with separating fact from fiction by pointing out those that are actively engaged in framing facts to support this ideology.

      Wouldn’t identifying the source of our social-ills be instrumental in creating awareness in the public eye? As opposed to blaming each-other, immigrants, poor people, etc.

      Out of curiosity, how are you defining media bias?

  2. Perhaps I have become biased myself, but people contest Fox News and other such media sources everyday. Still, their ratings dwarf all other cable news networks.

    Because of their commercial success, combined with the fact that they are quite practiced at defending their “Fair and Balanced” positioning, I doubt that any individual or group can cause a change in their editorial behavior. Instead, I prefer to focus on awakening the typical viewer, who is likely not a news “wonk” like myself or you. Trivial as it may seem, my hope is to raise the collective consciousness of those viewers such that the “O’Reilly Factor” or MSNBC’s “Politics Nation” are no longer viewed as “The News,” but as the Op-Ed programs which they are. Like the FDA label on a food package, I believe that people will exercise more care with what they mentally ingest if they clearly know what’s it is.

    As far as my method for measuring media bias, I am working with leaders in the field of sentiment analysis, creating a custom software tool that evaluates media bias based on news transcripts. It is a work in-progress, but I hope to have a beta version running and featured on my site by year’s end.

    Stay tuned.

  3. The difficulty with painting Fox News as being “just another” biased news station is that it puts them all on a level playing field. MSNBC discusses Global Climate Change. Fox News says its a hoax. By claiming that they are both part of biased television programming is to give both of their arguments equal validity, even though one side is backed up by facts far more than the other. Granted, I do agree that all of the MSM, whether its MSNBC, CNN, or FOX play a role as defenders of rule of the 1%. They are all owned by corporations, are beholden to stockholders, and compete for ratings. But nothing compares to the outright inflammatory lies told by Fox News. If they are left unchallenged, does that not set the precedent that one can lie, stir up base hatreds in the nation (sometimes with disastrous effects) and not only will they not be challenged for it, they will profit off of it? By not challenging the rhetoric coming from Fox News, we are lending our support. The worse response to give would be “Well MSNBC is biased too!!” Instead, we should challenge falsehoods where they exist and send the message that only news stations who are willing to report accurately and factually will receive the support of the public.

    1. It seems that we have slightly different objectives. Mine is to get ALL viewers to increase the number of sources they use for information, as studies have shown that relying on any single news source leads to some level of misinformation.

      Hard as it may be to accept, MSNBC is biased as well, but that only tells part of the story. Given that Nielsen ratings for Fox are roughly 2x of MSNBC’s, the Fox bias has a far greater impact. When their supporters complain of liberal media bias, I point to this fact every time. It doesn’t matter how many media outlets favor liberal messaging. All that matters is how many people ingest what is delivered, particularly if no critical-thinking is involved.

      Fox’s popularity represents both the opportunity and the challenge with, “…send(ing) the message that only news stations who are willing to report accurately and factually will receive the support of the public.: The inescapable truth is that Fox receives a substantial amount of public support already, from an incredibly loyal fan base. I agree that challenging them or any media outlet who may distort the facts is the appropriate thing to do. Still, I think the real question is, “What is the most effective way to get viewers, Fox or otherwise, to be better consumers of information?”

      And I have my own biases about that;-)

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