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If Fox Viewers and Republicans Are So Awful, Why Do They Know So Much More Than the Other Side?

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Republicans and the news outlets we interact with are often accused of denying and underestimating risks related to current policy issues. Yet, when the public is asked, Republicans almost always have a more accurate view of reality. A new poll from the Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports is just another example. The survey asked respondents about the risks of climate change and how much has already occurred. They used the proxy of which news outlet a person watched to approximate political affiliation:

Most viewers of MSNBC and CNN believe climate change could doom mankind to extinction within 100 years, and viewers of those networks are also likely to overestimate the amount of global warming that has already occurred.

Among the DNC propaganda outlets, 54% who watch MSNBC and 53% who watch CNN believe that if global carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase at a rate comparable to the last decade, humans will be extinct within 100 years. Only 25% of Fox News viewers, more commonly Republicans, believe that.

As climate activist Michael Shellenberger notes, no credible scientific body has ever predicted the collapse of civilization or a mass extinction event due to climate change. The intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) anticipates a modest economic impact by 2100:

By 2100, IPCC projects the global economy will be 300 to 500% larger than it is today. Both IPCC and the Nobel-winning Yale economist, William Nordhaus, predict that warming of 2.5°C and 4°C would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by 2% and 5% over that same period.

Shellenberger and other rational climate advocates who separate conservation and climate action, such as Bjorn Lomborg and Alex Epstein, often appear on conservative outlets. They discuss the role of innovation, a transition to natural gas and nuclear, and mitigation strategies to combat the problem. All three routinely quote the IPCC data and emphasize that it is not predicting a catastrophe for the planet. These climate activists also reject the Green New Deal, green jobs plans, and the elimination of fossil fuels. That may be why no one on CNN or MSNBC hears the actual IPCC predictions.

CNN and MSNBC viewers also overestimate temperature increases since the late 1800s. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that the Earth’s average temperature has risen approximately 2.1°F since 1880. Forty-one percent of Fox News viewers selected the correct range, while 30% of CNN and MSNBC viewers did. However, the vast majority of the latter overestimate the amount. Thirty percent in that group think the temperature has increased at least 5°F.

Climate is not the only issue where Republicans, who generally consume Fox and other right-leaning media, are more accurate. When it comes to the individual health risk of COVID-19, Democrats are much more likely to overestimate them. According to the Franklin Templeton/Gallup study, 41% believe that most coronavirus patients require hospitalization, compared to 28% of Republicans. Only 10% of Democrats answered correctly, at 1-5%. Democrats were also more likely to overestimate the risk of death in every age group under 65.

Finally, when it comes to the central claim of the group Black Lives Matter, voters who identify as conservative and very conservative, who are generally Republican voters, are most accurate on the number of unarmed black men killed by police in a typical year. Greater than 45% in these groups answered correctly that there were about ten. Among liberal and very liberal voters, the most common answers were about 100 and about 1000. Neary 15% of very liberal voters placed the number at about 10,000.

So, Fox News-viewing Republicans tend to be more informed on the underlying facts of an issue. This fact would be astonishing to hosts on other channels, namely Brian Stelter. He routinely stalks Fox News for selectively edited snippets so he can scream “Misinformation!” and call for censorship. All three of the issues where Republicans appear more grounded tie directly back to the priorities of the Democrat Party. Climate change and coronavirus allow them to pursue massive spending packages, continue to intervene in the economy, and limit people’s personal choices. The BLM narrative enables them to capitalize on identity politics and divide the electorate.

It is no wonder they seek to silence the outlets and individuals that disrupt the narrative. Committed progressives like Glenn Greenwald and Naomi Wolf and liberals like Alex Berenson make regular appearances on Tucker Carlson’s shows because they won’t parrot the DNC’s preferred narratives. Fox also includes hosts like Juan Williams and contributors such as Donna Brazille on their shows. The last thing the Democrats and their allies in the media want is for large swaths of the public to hear heterodox views and differing points of view. That just encourages viewers to seek out more information and make up their own minds. That is the last thing they can afford to allow.