Discussions of death panels, government takeover of our local elections, Obama’s birthplace, etc. shows that last month’s election was mostly driven by misinformation. Attend just about any tea party rally and one would likely scratch their head wondering where they got their information. After seeing the results from a new World Public Opinion poll we might have a better idea on where the misinformation came from.
First the numbers. The poll found that a large number of voters were misinformed on many different issues that were on the forefront during last month’s election including stimulus job creation numbers, climate change, and heath care reform. Some other numbers:
• 40% of voters believed incorrectly that the TARP legislation was initiated under Barack Obama, rather than George Bush
• 31% believed it was proven true that the US Chamber of Commerce spent large amounts of money it had raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates
• 54% believed that there were no tax cuts in the stimulus legislation
• 86% assumed their taxes had gone up (38%) or stayed the same (48%), while only 10% were aware that their taxes had gone down since 2009
• 53% thought that the bailout of GM and Chrysler occurred only under Obama, though it was initiated under Bush
Also telling (but hardly surprising) was the discovery that a large number of those misinformed about the issues also claimed to be daily watchers of one network while those doing better on the questions had different viewing habits.
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.
I’d say Fox “News” accomplished their mission…