Cheer Up, Fox News Viewers


The number 1 article in Digg’s “Top News in Politics” category for April 9, 2012 was “The Science of Fox News: Why Its Viewers are the Most Misinformed” by Chris Mooney.  Before I go any further, I need to provide a disclaimer: during the day I watch CNBC, and I prefer “Special Report with Bret Baier” for evening news because of the panel discussion during the last 20 minutes of the show.


That said, let’s examine Mooney’s article.  He begins with his conclusion:

“In June of last year, Jon Stewart went on air with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and started a major media controversy over the channel’s misinforming of its viewers. ‘Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers?’ Stewart asked Wallace. ‘The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.’


There probably is a small group of media consumers out there somewhere in the world who are more misinformed, overall, than Fox News viewers. But if you only consider mainstream U.S. television news outlets with major audiences (e.g., numbering in the millions), it really is true that Fox viewers are the most misled based on all the available evidence—especially in areas of political controversy. This will come as little surprise to liberals, perhaps, but the evidence for it—evidence in Stewart’s favor—is pretty overwhelming.”

That’s a bold assertion, so you would expect Mooney to present some compelling evidence to support it.  Does he?  You be the judge:

Exhibit 1— The Iraq War:

“In 2003, a survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland found widespread public misperceptions about the Iraq war. For instance, many Americans believed the U.S. had evidence that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been collaborating in some way with Al Qaeda, or was involved in the 9-11 attacks; many also believed that the much touted “weapons of mass destruction” had been found in the country after the U.S. invasion, when they hadn’t.”


The survey is correct.  Fox viewers were misinformed about Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMDs and his collaboration with al Qaeda.  So were the President of the United States, a host of other world leaders, leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives from both political parties, and key players at the United Nations.  Hussein intentionally misled people probably because he believed that it would give them second thoughts about attacking him.  That’s not a problem with Fox News viewers.  In fact, it shows that they were on top of the latest available “good information” whether or not it turned out to be accurate.

Exhibit 2—Global Warming:

“In a late 2010 survey, Stanford University political scientist Jon Krosnick and visiting scholar Bo MacInnis found that ‘more exposure to Fox News was associated with more rejection of many mainstream scientists’ claims about global warming, with less trust in scientists, and with more belief that ameliorating global warming would hurt the U.S. economy.’ Frequent Fox viewers were less likely to say the Earth’s temperature has been rising and less likely to attribute this temperature increase to human activities.”

Earth to Mooney: the global climate stopped warming in 1998, and the latest trend among fashion conscious Chicken Littles is global cooling—the same as it was in the 1960s and 1970s.  If readers were skeptical when they read your title, by now they must think that you have an agenda of your own.  And by the way, did you know that more than 31,000 scientists signed a petition rejecting the notion that man-made CO2 emissions caused climate change—either warming or cooling?  Last but not least, have you ever heard the phrase “Climategate”?  If not, try googling it.


Exhibit 3—Health Care:

“In 2009, an NBC survey found ‘rampant misinformation’ about the healthcare reform bill before Congress — derided on the right as ‘Obamacare.’ It also found that Fox News viewers were much more likely to believe this misinformation than average members of the general public. ‘72% of self-identified Fox News viewers believe the healthcare plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly,’ the survey found.

By contrast, among CNN and MSNBC viewers, only 41 percent believed the illegal immigrant falsehood, 39 percent believed in the threat of a ‘government takeover’ of healthcare (40 percentage points less), 40 percent believed the falsehood about abortion, and 30 percent believed the falsehood about ‘death panels’ (a 45 percent difference!).”

Mr. Mooney, a recent Heritage Foundation report highlighted the facts below.  Have you seen the report?

  • “Nearly one-quarter of all seniors rely on Medicare Advantage, the private health care option in Medicare. However, Obamacare makes such deep cuts to that program that half of those covered will no longer be able to keep the coverage they have.
  • New taxes on drug companies ($27 billion) and medical device makers ($20 billion), as well as new reporting requirements and regulations imposed on physicians, will make access to health care and services more costly and difficult for seniors under Obamacare.
  • Obamacare expands government’s role as the primary payer of health care by adding 18 million people to the Medicaid program, which on average reimburses doctors only 56 percent of the market rate for medical procedures.
  • Due to increased regulation and less reimbursement,66 percent of doctors are considering no longer accepting government health programs.
  • $52 billion in new taxes will be imposed on businesses by mandating that employers provide health insurance.
  • On February 10, 2011, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf testified before the House Budget Committee that Obamacare will result in an estimated 800,000 fewer U.S. jobs.
  • By 2019, over 80 million people will be on the Medicaid program—requiring billions of dollars from state budgets and taxpayers.
  • Twenty-one State Attorneys General have filed suits to protect their citizens from being forced, in violation of the Constitution, to purchase government-approved health insurance.
  • Obamacare adds a trillion dollars in new health care spending, expanding prohibitively expensive entitlements and creating a subsidy scheme that discourages work and penalizes marriage.
  • New Obamacare spending includes $125 million per year for school-based health centers and a new program to reduce teen pregnancy, with no requirement to reduce abortions.
  • Those who gain coverage will be enrolled in Medicaid, the welfare program for the poor, or in a health plan designed by the government.
  • The millions who remain uninsured will still depend on overcrowded emergency rooms for routine care.”

I’ll stop there because Mooney’s so-called “evidence” is proof of his own bias and his desire to humiliate Fox News and its viewers.  In the process, he embarrassed himself—if that’s possible.

Cheer up Fox News viewers.  If Mooney’s “evidence” is the best that your detractors have to offer, then they have nothing except animosity, and ill will is evidence of their own delusions.

Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog,, is posted daily.


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