The Fox News "Effect": A Few References

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It is no secret that many in the climate science world are critical of Fox News. The prevailing view seems to be that the conservative network, although claiming to be “fair and balanced,” is in fact quite biased in its treatment of this and other issues.

The opinion isn’t without foundation. It’s not just Fox’s coverage itself (see image at left, courtesy of Media Matters): Last year, Media Matters exposed an internal email from Washington bureau chief Bill Sammon, commenting on the network’s coverage of global warming and seeming to demand a misleading treatment of the issue. The email told reporters they should

…refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.

Given that warming is indeed a fact, it’s little wonder that when it was released, this email drew a lot of attention.

Clearly, there’s much concern about Fox coverage. But many critics of the network seem unaware of what may be their best argument: the existence of several public opinion studies showing a correlation between watching Fox and being misinformed about one or more public policy issues.

These studies tend to take the same basic form. First, they survey Americans to determine their views about some matter of controversy. Inevitably, some significant percentage of citizens are found to be misinformed about the core facts of the issue–but not just that. The surveys also find that those who watch Fox, or watch it frequently, are more likely to be misinformed.

Here are five such studies—and note that this list may be incomplete. This is just what I’ve come across so far:

1. 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 that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been involved in 9/11, or that it possessed weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S. invasion. But not everyone was equally misinformed: “The extent of Americans’ misperceptions vary significantly depending on their source of news,” PIPA reported. “Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions.” For instance, 80 % of Fox viewers held at least one of three Iraq-related misperceptions, more than a variety of other types of news consumers, and especially NPR and PBS users.

2. Global Warming. In a late 2010 survey, Stanford University’s Jon Krosnick 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.” Notably, there was a 25 percentage point gap between the most frequent Fox News watchers (60 %) and those who watch no Fox news (85 %) in whether they think global warming is “caused mostly by things people do or about equally by things people do and natural causes.”

3. Health Care. Earlier this year, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey on U.S. misperceptions about health care reform. The survey asked 10 questions, and compared the “high scorers”–those that answered 7 or more correct–based on their media habits. The result was that “higher shares of those who report CNN (35 percent) or MSNBC (39 percent) as their primary news source [got] 7 or more right, compared to those who report mainly watching Fox News (25 percent).”

4. Ground Zero Mosque. In late 2010, two scholars at the Ohio State University studied public misperceptions about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”—and in particular, the prevalence of a series of rumors depicting those seeking to build the mosque as terrorist sympathizers, anti-American, and so on. The result? “People who use Fox News believe more of the rumors we asked about and they believe them more strongly than those who do not.” Respondents reporting a “low reliance” on Fox News believed .9 rumors on average (out of 4), but for those reporting a “high reliance” on Fox News, the number increased to 1.5 out of 4. 

5. 2010 Election. Late last year, the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) once again singled out Fox in a survey about misinformation during the 2010 election. Out of 11 false claims studied in the survey, PIPA found that “almost daily” Fox News viewers were “significantly more likely than those who never watched it” to believe 9 of them, including the misperception that “most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring.”

It’s important to note that these studies do not prove causation. In other words, they do not prove that watching Fox makes people believe incorrect things. After all, it could be that those who are more likely to believe the incorrect things listed above are also more likely to watch Fox, to seek out Fox, etc. The causation could go in the opposite direction.

Still, the evidence above is striking.

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Okay Mooney, let’s see if you’re an actual scientist or just a political hack.

Please list the common scientific misconceptions perpetrated by left-leaning news media. Here’s an example to get you started: Left-wing Creationism (

My guess is that you aren’t even aware of your ignorance and biases.

The so-called “Left-wing creationism” of which you (perhaps you are the pro-eugenics racist and white supremacist Steve Sailer himself) whine is a typically grotesque far-right distortion of reality. Those very few who espoused something remotely similar to “left-wing creationism” (a ridiculous misnomer) were, in fact, reacting (and admittedly sometimes over-reacting) to the crackpot racists and eugenicists of the 19’th century “social Darwinist” set who were later seen as a driving force towards Nazi genocides and eliminationism. “Social Darwinism” was then and remains today a primary Right-wing “justification” of the tremendously damaging economics of laissez-faire capitalism. (And are today being represented by the likes of Steve Sailer, his pet eugenicist Professor Linda Gottfredson, the spectacularly despicable Pioneer Fund, and, sadly, even the New York Times eugenics-enabling crackpot-libertarian John Tierney).

A small number of these people who reacted vehemently against the pro-racist and pro-eugenics “social Darwinism” (who actually rejected Darwin’s actual writings and instead focused on ludicrously pseudo-scientific “re-interpretations” of Darwin’s ideas) descended into their own brand of pseudo-science that posited one or another view of “human exceptionalism” (quite like the right’s pseudo-religious/pseudo-scientific “American exceptionalism”). They did not claim religious “creationism”, but instead essentially argued that the “blank slate” view of human social learning and plasticity elevated our species beyond being limited in any way by genetics.

This view fell strongly into disfavor in the following decades until the recklessly anti-rational and anti-scientific dogmas that many have termed “postmodernism” reared its mystical, metaphysical head, particularly in academic social science faculties of the late 20’th century. This development was largely prompted by grossly misinformed emotional reactions to sociobiology and then to evolutionary psychology, neither of which actually makes the claims that the postmodern critics reacted to with such horror.

Fortunately, postmodernism in science is effectively dead, thanks far more to liberal scientific and philosophical criticism and debunking than anything the Right had to offer!

Faraday, your notion that postmodernism can be equated with modern political liberalism or the “left wing” is just as ludicrously false as the claim that the Right or political conservatism can be equated with racism, white-supremacy, or eugenic eliminationism. Yes, some social science academics went wildly astray, just as some conservatives do indeed espouse racism, white-supremacy, and eugenic eliminationism, as Steve Sailer steadfastly does.

Yes…..left wing creationists. They definitely are the left wing majority and therefore are just as prominent and deserving of attention as Mooneys aforementioned studies. Could you detect any sarcasm there?

You can’t take every fringe group into account. There are billions of people with billions of views, let’s concentrate on the ones that actually affect society ok?

The left-leaning news media refuses to discuss the basic science of human biodiversity, with significant implications for society.

While I might share the political views of Mr. Mooney, it is intellectually dishonest to cherry-pick the data showing how conservatives can have scientific misconceptions, while ignoring the evidence showing that liberals also have scientific misconceptions.

What are you talking about? Why don’t you just acknowledge the obvious. That fox misleads its viewers with right leaning stories and emotional dialogue. Its atrocious sometimes. The fact that some left wing medias omit “the basic science of human biodiversity” (some proof please?) does not in any way omit the studies presented here by actual scientific investigators. I guess scientists are part of the left wing media too, along with the Nature and Science journals as well.

I do my best to be “fair and balanced” in my criticisms, but every time I try to watch fox news I find myself getting angry at some point. I truly feel that some of the contributors and journalists there are either out of touch with actual reality or are simply extremely politically motivated.

If one searches for the phrase “human biodiversity”, one quickly learns that Steve Sailer (he of the notorious hate-based eugenics- and racism-promoting personal web site as well as the notorious hate-based eugenics- and racism-promoting “The Human Biodiversity Institute” hate antithinktank and who may well be posting here as Faraday) took that term from old-style Right-wing racist eugenics pro-genocidal infamy and gave it new, even more despicable life in Right-wing neo-racist neo-eugenics pro-genocidal infamy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has declared that Sailer’s sites are hate sites.

To learn all you need to know about Sailer and his monstrously hate-fueled pseudoscience of “human biodiversity”, see:
(See section about V-DARE).

You were saying, “Faraday”? Who’s being intellectually dishonest?

“…the basic science of human biodiversity…”

BZZZZT! Crackpot alarm!

Ever heard of “confirmation bias”? It is the well-known tendency of researchers to find exactly what they are expecting to find. In biomedical research a great deal of effort goes into preventing this through study design, because human health and well-being depend on it.

Here we have researchers who lay out a series of misconceptions, create questions to test who has these misconceptions, and what news source might be responsible. But does the hypothesis presuppose the result? Are they opinion-free misconceptions? Are the questions loaded? Is the result analyzed fairly without cherry-picking? And are studies that do not confirm the hypothesis reported?

Why don’t you go read them and find out before you post asking questions about them. Do you expect the authors of the original articles to come tell you the answers, or do you think they expect you to read there findings yourself and come to your own conclusions?

Look for yourself.

#1 They decided to only examine the origin of three “misperceptions”:
Evidence of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda have been found
Weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq
World public opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq
These are either opinion or loaded questions. Liberals would say no to all, and conservatives would say there is some evidence for them. A conservative researcher would treat the contrary of these assumptions as misperceptions.

#2 The strongest correlates with Fox and misperceptions were for:
Trust what scientists say about the environment
Addressing global warming would hurt the U.S. economy
The first is clearly opinion and the contrary to the second is far from a fact, “green job” fantasies notwithstanding.

#3 This survey actually confined itself to facts. This compared people’s understanding of the final 2000 page healthcare law. It is doubtful that anyone in America has read it. The confounding factor is that as the plan was being considered, there was much discussion (probably a lot on Fox) of more socialistic features that never made it into the final law. Some of their questions that were often answered wrong were about whether these features were in the law. Not surprising that listeners to liberal news outlets may never even have heard of them.

#4 The title of the study is:
CNN and NPR promote more accurate beliefs; Belief in rumors associated with opposition to the NYC mosque and to mosques in general”
Clearly this is not an unbiased study that came up with an unexpected finding. Their “rumors” were allegations that have yet to be proven, not allegations proven to be false.

#5 While they concluded that: “This suggests that misinformation cannot simply be attributed to news sources, but are part of the larger information environment that includes statements by candidates, political ads and so on” they went on to say that the least informed people tended to watch Fox. But again the “misinformation” was often opinion: “most economists” or “most scientists” think, or “economy is getting worse”. They didn’t note, but did report, that viewers of Fox were more likely to get two fact-based “perceptions” right than viewers of other news outlets.

Figures don’t lie, but liar figure.

I don’t happen to disagree that Fox has a conservative bias. But CNN, MSNBC, and NPR have a conspicuous liberal bias. I don’t see why a lone voice for conservatives should be so frightening to liberals who are bathed in a surfeit of like-minded propaganda.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m not a conservative?

“I agree with Applegate and I to am not a conservative. I voted labour in UK.”

Standard denier tactics. You have already said you vote conservative a few posts ago.

I said I have voted for both. My last vote was for labour.

Please retract and correct this statement with a balanced comment.

And NuLabour were more OldTory than the tories. You’re a conservative and a denialist and I can’t see any reason why someone would have to retract a statement pointing it out.

Unless you hate to let people speak freely.

And when folks miss speak I’m at liberty to point that out.

Unless you hate to let people speak freely.

You seem to make a habit of pointing at speck in someones eye and totally miss the plank in your own. Your tiresome (I’m speaking freely).

“I said I have voted for both. My last vote was for labour.”

Well, to tell you the truth, there is right leaning factions in Labor/Labour/Democrats & your language is very right leaning. I doubt you were ever a centrist like you make yourself out to be & besides, a few posts back you said you now vote conservative.

And I vote for both parties. Never said, or even thought of myself as a centerist.

As a US citizen I refuse to affilate with either party. I suppose you could lable me as a floater if you must.

“Titus. +0; Mon, 2011-05-09 17:35; My last UK vote was labour
Titus (not verified)

My last UK vote was labour for Tony Blair”


It’s called dual citizenship.

I last lived in the UK in late 90’s. Been in US ever since.

Hence “my last UK vote was labour for Tont Blair”.

See, denialists change their message to suit the occasion.

“Oh, I’m a USian”

“Oh, I’m a Brit”

You’ve said that you voted for both parties. That means you must have been in the UK for more than 15 years.

You change your desires to fit whatever story makes best reading.

Liars and con-men do the same.

You really are a bore. You stride around this site beating up on folks with tirades and abuse.

You are very bad news for your cause. I recommend you keep your month shut and leave the communication to others better suited.

FYI. I was born British and voted many times in UK. Sheesh what an idiot you are.

When you want to be American, “I’m an american”. When you want to be a foreigner “I’m a brit”. When you want to be a conservative, you are, and when you don’t want to be one, “I’ve voted for labour!”.

You change your story to fit your needs.

Like I say, liars and con-men do this.

Which are you?

Are you SOOOOOOOOOO stupid that you cannot see or accept a simple fact that I was born and raised in the UK. Voted Conservative and Labour. Moved to the US in late 90’s and now a US citizen and am not affiliated to any political party.

You are the biggest heap of sh……..t I have ever communicated with.

Thinking you can get away with changing your story without someone bringing you up on it.

Then again, you have a Mission From God, and lies are a necessary Evil to aid you in that Holy Mission.

So “con-man” is the answer, I conclude.

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).

Looks like you’ll be left here when the others have left for better pastures:

Which is a bugger for the rest of us.

(PS how are you liking the character assassination. Seems like you’re OK dealing it out, but hate it for yourself. Hypocrite. Con-man. Denier)

PS how are you liking the character assassination. Seems like you’re OK dealing it out”

Yeah. And thanks for all the training over the past few weeks. My education and understanding have risen more than my expectations.

You’ve been agreat mentor and inspiration. Thanks………

Because your cause requires blind faith in the Hidden Truth. Problem is, you find out that it doesn’t exist when you turn the light on.

Rather like a bogeyman, in fact.

You’ve denied you were a denier. That was proven false from your own mouth. You’ve denied you’re conservative (which in America isn’t a tory party member) but that’s been shown false from your own words too.

And now you’ve been chopping and changing on your identity.

Merely a short step each way. Which is the road to hell.

You’re babbling has gone beyond comprehension.

How can I respond to anything you say now I have shown your comments to be a cataclysmic heap of dung.

I’ll take pity as I think you are suffering shell shot from defending your faith for so long. I recommend you quit for a while and seek some rehab.

“Yeah. And thanks for all the training over the past few weeks. My education and understanding have risen more than my expectations.

You’ve been agreat mentor and inspiration”

Titus. This is why anonymous & myself get so frustrated with your comments.

Here is the definition of denialism:

“•Denialism is driven by ideology where the need to maintain the belief takes precedence over the evidence. A denier has decided their position in advance and looks through the data with the aim of confirming their pre-existing beliefs, ignoring the rest of evidence. A denier is not motivated by the desire to improve our understanding; many appear motivated by the desire to promote confusion and doubt about climate change. They are often linked in this case to the fossil fuel lobby or vested interests. ”

It’s you all over Titus. You have come here with a position decided in advance. You have chosen to come to not a science blog on AGW, but a blog discussing the PR. You have decided to avoid putting any serious questions to actual scientists & instead come to a blog discussing PR & have declared it’s all a faith, a religion etc.

Despite numerous attempts at addressing your questions, you stay on message. Which means it’s confirmation bias. You are not here to promot any understanding, you are here to promote confusion & your position is very clear to us & has been decided well in advance.

So we don’t believe you & get really frustrated hearing you say you were looking for some sort of training, education or understanding. You aren’t, it’s a lie & we see through it.

Since you say you are not a political creature, what would it take for your position to change on AGW?

The training was in the art of tirades and hurling abuse. Never done that on a blog before. Anonymous is a past master and I’ve been in awe at his teaching.

First off I would recommend you distance yourself from the likes of him. He does your cause great harm.

Secondly I have focused my comments on the PR because that is your failure. You cannot bully your audience into blindly following you. You have a difficult product because it is not doing what you expected. Joe public is asking questions and you are falling apart at the seams.

Ask Joe to fly in your plane and you’re seeing the result. “Hey you’re taking me to 35k ft. without a parachute?”. “Not me” I say.

And you call it denial!!

Forget it. Your cause is toast.

yet he still insists on slagging off the real scientists and then goes all “tone troll” when they’re not 100% polite.

What a moron!

You cracked. You have nothing other than your hate inculcated through your dual religion that YOU are the center of creation: Ayn Rand greed and fundamentalist Xian ego-stroking.

If there is a god, he doesn’t answer prayers, he just gives consequences. And you’re going to hell in a handbasket.

Your vitriol shows how thin your skin is and how you MUST go on the attack. Pathetic

If I’m interpreting your comment correctly I read that you are basically saying you have thrown in the towel.

I graciously accept your defeat.

Please do your religion (BTW: that’s what this site has confirmed for me) a favor and remove yourself from promoting their cause. Do you think you will convince anybody with your behavior?
You are a liability.

Semiconductor theory supports decades of explicit engineering, quality controls and regulatory processes. It has decades of successful development and investment and is now an everyday commodity in 10x1000,s of products and has performed exceptionally well and many times exceeded research predications.

AGW is the same you say? PULL THE OTHER LEG. You should have quit early when I accepted your defeat for the first time.

And AGW is supported by nearly 2 centuries of explicit testing, quality controls and regulatory processes.

It has over 50 years of successful prediction and is now an everyday accepted science.

Your leg doesn’t have to be pulled. I’m stating the truth.

An inconvenient one to you, because your faith requires that AGW be false, no matter what evidence there is for it. Denial.

On #3: I’m usually listening to believers tell me about the big oil money that supports AGW deniers.

Now I can identify the big health care providers that support health care reform. Kaiser is probably the biggest integrated health care system in the world. They provide a system of insurance and care. They have the basis for rolling out a national health care system (like UK). In my experience of being a Kaiser member (through job benefits) I can truly say this is scary. Give me options of independent competitive insurance and care any day. There is so much that can be done without this politically controlled, big lobby supported sledge hammer approach. Watch out - BIG HEALTH CARE is here.

“In my experience of being a Kaiser member (through job benefits) I can truly say this is scary. Give me options of independent competitive insurance and care any day. There is so much that can be done without this politically controlled, big lobby supported sledge hammer approach. Watch out - BIG HEALTH CARE is here.”

Not conservative my arse. I’ve lived in the U.K also & now live in Australia. Both have free health care systems along side of private. Obviously if you can afford private, then private is a quicker & often better service, but not always. Quicker yes. I’ve been treated in public & private hospitals before & think the public health system is fantastic.

The problem with private health care is, the majority can’t afford it.

Titus, you keep declaring you are not conservative, but your language, demeanor, morals & general ideology is very right wing, bordering on Libertarian. You fool only yourself.

“I don’t happen to disagree that Fox has a conservative bias. But CNN, MSNBC, and NPR have a conspicuous liberal bias.”

So what CNN, MSNBC or NPR personalities have a far left leaning leaning & extreme left leaning views that counter the far right leaning Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O-Reilly to name a few or organized conservative rallies?

“Oh, and did I mention that I’m not a conservative?”

You know what they say about if it looks like a duck & quacks like a duck.

Why the passionate defense then?

Defense? I’m defending “confirmation bias” in the cited studies, not an ideology. To ideologues, everything is about ideology. They bend the scientific process to their needs.

Ironic that you should consider libertarians to the right of conservatives.

“Ironic that you should consider libertarians to the right of conservatives.”

Maybe I should have been more specific. You obviously are refering to left libertarianism, where as i am refering to right libertarianism or libertarian-conservatism.

Now to my question to you:

“So what CNN, MSNBC or NPR personalities have a far left leaning leaning & extreme left leaning views that counter the far right leaning Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O-Reilly to name a few or organized conservative rallies?”

Do you really think that a single conservative news outlet comes close to balancing the daily waterboarding of liberal values that comes from almost all other media and even from teachers in school? Or do you not realize that liberal values are thoroughly inculcated into the American culture now?

I once saw a talk on CSPAN by someone in the teachers union castigating American teachers for their failure. As proof, she pointed out that despite teachers having a primary role in forming you minds, many still vote Republican. She had no clue how fascist that statement was. To her indoctrinating children with liberal political beliefs was as natural as teaching them to read. But don’t let them learn how to think.

I’m not sure why you’re throwing conservative rallies in there, since I don’t imagine many non-conservatives attend or listen.

“Do you really think that a single conservative news outlet comes close to balancing the daily waterboarding of liberal values that comes from almost all other media”

Like I asked before, where is the “liberal media” equivalent of Hannity, O-Reilly & Beck? To someone who watches Fox news & is a conservative, ANTYHING that is left of that is obviously considered Liberal media.

To a centrist or a progressive, it’s not viewed as have a Liberal bias like Fox news has with the right.

It’s like the ABC here in Australia or the BBC in the U.K. Anything left of the Murdoch press is considered left wing.

“I’m not sure why you’re throwing conservative rallies in there”

Ok i will expand on my comment. When have MSNBC, CNN or NPR organized what could arguably be called a Democrat rally with democrat spokes people similar to Glenn Becks rally where he had Sarah Palin speak.

“and even from teachers in school? Or do you not realize that liberal values are thoroughly inculcated into the American culture now?”

Then why is there roughly a 50-50% democrat & republican voting pattern?

My point exactly. You probably don’t even think you are on the left. You think of yourself and the mainstream media as centrist. (You should read Liberal Fascism for a good discussion of the true pedigree of the progressive movement in America. Hint: it arose from American fascism.) You have been conditioned that way. The MSM would have you believe that the left of decades ago is now the center. (See the Wikipedia article on “agenda setting” - it is a recognized academic area of study.)

I don’t know much about Glenn Beck, but did Fox organize this rally or did he do it as a private person? Do you think he should not have been allowed to organize a rally? Why are you so afraid that some people express views opposed to yours? Are your views so fragile?

“Then why is there roughly a 50-50% democrat & republican voting pattern?” Could it be because at least half the populace sees through the MSM bias? Democrats should have been embarrassed at the conspicuous fawning the MSM reporters did over Obama – actually cheering on camera when it was announced that he won. It was not their finest hour.

I too grew up in a culture that took liberalism as the norm. When I was first able to vote, I voted Democratic - didn’t everybody? “When you’re young and you’re not a liberal, you have no heart. When you are old and you’re not a conservative, you have no brain.”

Liberals are fans of dissent except with the dissent is from their own ideology. Then it is dangerous hate speech - denial.