This is dated December 4th — last Tuesday — but it’s just getting around now. I’ll reproduce the whole news release on the next page, but here’s the basic story.
The results of a 4 year study show that Americans who obtain their news from Fox News channel have an average IQ of 80, which represents a 20 point deficit when compared to the U.S. national average of 100. IQ, or intelligence quotient, is the international standard of assessing intelligence.
Researchers at The Intelligence Institute, a conservative non-profit group, tested 5,000 people using a series of tests that measure everything from cognitive aptitude to common sense and found that people who identified themselves as Fox News viewers and ‘conservative’ had, on average, significantly lower intelligent quotients. Fox Viewers represented 2,650 members of the test group.
The press release has a name — “P. Nichols” — and a phone number attached, so I called. I got a call back from a 202 area code. Okay, Washington, D.C. Not clear why the press release is datelined “Birmingham Alabama” but okay. Oddly, the phone number turns out to be a free Google Voice number.
The caller identified himself as P. Nichols but didn’t give a full first name. He was happy to be interviewed about the study, however. I’d identified myself as the Science Editor at PJ Media; my first question was where I could find a copy of the study.
He laughed a little and said “it’s a real study, done with standard polling techniques, but the study was funded by a Republican PAC, and I’m tied up in so many contracts and things that I can’t possibly show you the actual study.”
He went on to describe the methodology. “This Republican group had a particular result in mind, and we helped them find it. The way they put it was that they needed to separate the ‘TEA Party’ types from the Republican Party. ‘If your hand has cancer, you want to cut off the hand before it kills you,’ was their explanation of the motivation.”
The study, he said, was a four-year study with more than 5000 subjects. “We didn’t look at areas with educated populations, or in cities. In fact, we had trouble finding people in those categories who watched Fox News. Instead, we looked for uneducated, rural people — the people who actually believe that women’s bodies will prevent conception by rape. Those sorts of people.”
Interestingly, he also said the motivation for the study was the election results this year. Hmm.
Now, I’d Googled for the “Intelligence Institute” — all I found was a guy in Sydney, Australia, who does business intelligence consulting (and whose email I suspect will be a real horror by tomorrow). So I asked about that. “Oh, that’s a pseudonym,” Nichols said. “The people who funded this study wanted these results to come out, and the news release organization wouldn’t accept this unless we gave an organization name.”
The description of the population they selected struck me odd: rural, un-educated — wouldn’t that be selecting for people with lower IQ? He disagreed, but said, “The sample was selected with a goal in mind.”
I finished the interview by asking some summary questions. Were the results going to be published? “No, can’t publish the results, I wouldn’t risk the funding groups’ lawyers.” And the funding source was confidential? “Yes, I can’t identify the source of the funding.”
I pointed out that this added up to a not very convincing story — the population selection was, by his own admission, made with a predetermined outcome in mind, and he couldn’t identify the source, or the source of funding, and they were releasing it using an admittedly made-up institution as the supposed source. He agreed. He said, “The funding source wants these results out. They’d rather have people not believe it’s real than be identified.”
So there you have it. A four-year study sparked by the outcome of the recent election, from an institution that’s admittedly a fake, from a company that won’t identify itself, supposedly funded by a Republican PAC trying to “cut off” the Tea Party like a cancer, using a sample that was chosen with a particular result in mind, with a contact number that’s an anonymous free Google Voice number.
By the way, the link for “further information on this study” actually points to a Huffington Post story about last years’ Fairleigh Dickinson University study. You might recall that study was widely criticized for confusing “well-informed” with “agrees with the legacy media.” It would be interesting to call them and see what they have to say. I think it’s fair to say I’m skeptical. The whole news release follows on the next page.