What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 17, 2010

Misinformation And The News

Take a look at how well our news media has done in informing the electorate.

From World Public Opinion:
Following the first election since the Supreme Court has struck down limits on election-related advertising, a new poll finds that 9 in 10 voters said that in the 2010 election they encountered information they believed was misleading or false, with 56% saying this occurred frequently. Fifty-four percent said that it had been more frequent than usual, while just three percent said it was less frequent than usual, according to the poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org, based at the University of Maryland, and Knowledge Networks.
This part is questionable, I have to admit. Not that I doubt the findings but without some context from elections past its difficult to know whether it's a new phenomenon. Post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that. The next paragraph is the important one:
Equally significant, the poll found strong evidence that voters were substantially misinformed on many of the key issues of the campaign. Such misinformation was correlated with how people voted and their exposure to various news sources.
Here are the findings. There are lots of questions about the stimulus, TARP, the economy and the like but when you dive into teh crazie you see where rightwing noise machine's succeeded.

Question 35 - to the question as to whether President Obama was born in the US, not born in the US or it's not clear we see that 44% answered not born in the US (15%) or were unsure that he was born in the US (29%). Even though he was born in Hawaii and has released the necessary official documents to prove it. The internals skew to the Republicans not accepting that reality.

Question 34 - to the question as to whether most scientists believe that climate change is occurring, is not occurring or that the scientific opinion is evenly divided, we see that 39% answered that they believed that most scientists believed that it was not occurring (10%) or that the scientific opinion was evenly divided (29%). Even though (as I've said many many times before) the scientific community overwhelmingly asserts that climate change is occurring. The internals here, too, skew to the Republicans denying reality.

Back to World Public Opinion:
In most cases those who had greater levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation. There were, however, a number of cases where greater exposure to a particular news source increased misinformation on some issues.

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). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.
Huh. Who'da thought that that would be the case?


rich10e said...

"and all this misinformation distorted the truth and "we" lost the election..wah wah wha"

EdHeath said...

So, rich, I guess you are saying it is fine with you if a major news outlets out and out lies to the public to achieve certain election results. An informed electorate is not necessary for the kind of democracy *you* want (or are you going to whine again about having been an Obama supporter wah wah wah).

Meanwhile, combined with the previous post, we can see that beyond having strangled the Senate into inaction, the Republican party has convinced its base (the part that gets all its news/information from FOX News anyway) that climate change is in some doubt. The longer we wait to take action in this area, the more difficult it will be for us to do anything meaningful. It's like trying to stop an oil tanker, the time to start doing it is when you are a mile from shore (or maybe five miles), not 100 yards from shore. Individual efforts only take us so far, until there is national policy the United States will be like an overgrown five year old swinging a hammer wildly in the china shop of the world.

Ol' Froth said...

So, distortion of facts by a major "news" organization isn't a problem?

Ol' Froth said...

Heh, a minute behind Mr. Heath

Pgh_Knight said...

decrying the misrepresentations of others, while continually engaging in the same behavior one's self...

Ol' Froth said...

Is that directed at Dayvoe, Mr. Knight? I'm sure he wishes he were as nationally influencial as Fox.

I'm sure you understand the difference between "opinion" and "manipulation."