Huffington Post writes:

Fox News viewers are much more likely than others to believe false information about American politics, a new study concludes. The study, conducted by the University of Maryland, judged how likely consumers of various news outlets and publications were to believe misinformation about a wide range of political issues.


In addition, the study said, "increased viewership of Fox News led to increased belief in [listed false stories]".

Similar claims have also been made on multiple websites including Forbes, the LA Times and Crooks and Liars. The claims appear to be based on this study.

Is this study fair and accurate?

  • 8
    So you take a far left source as an "authorative" claim about a right wing source? Let's reverse it: are readers of HufPo more misinformed than readers of other news sources?
    – jwenting
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 9:49
  • I am skeptical that some of the listed stories are either untrue or that they were ever actually claimed on Fox News.
    – Chad
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 13:48
  • 1
    There study cited is not from the University of Maryland as claimed by HuffPo. So it's a bit hard to judge the claim as I can't tell if the error is yours or HuffPo's. It's from Fairleigh Dickenson (FDU) and the author's contact numbers are a New Jersey area code. Commented May 1, 2012 at 22:34

1 Answer 1


This survey is not a measure of how "informed" someone is, but rather a measure of how well they align with certain views.


  1. The survey was taken regarding highly volatile and changing situations on three different days spanning three weeks. With a sample size of only 100, this alone would significantly skew the results.

  2. It's a poll, not a "study". The two are not synonymous.

By the question.

To the best of your knowledge, have the opposition groups protesting in Egypt been successful in bringing down the regime there?

Considering that Egypts military council still has not handed over the reins of government, and certainly had not when this poll was taken, it's a matter of opinion whether or not the revolt "succeeded". In fact, since, at that time, elections had not been held (they finished in late January) calling it a success before the first free election is more accurately the misinformation. Now, one could argue that success just means ending the regime, which is fine for an argument over beer. However any academic should know that success would mean different things to different audiences. Many people would still consider this a failure based on the rise of Islamic control.

How about the opposition groups in Syria…? PROMPT if necessary …have they been successful in bringing down the regime there?

This question would have been asked differently of different respondents. Those who were not prompted would have been implying the ending, which may not well align with the prompted ending. Again, they have been successful in many ways (ending the state of emergency, asylum for political dissedents, the creation of the Free Syrian army, so it would depend on how the respondent filled in the blank left by the absent prompt. The difference in "No"s with FOX watchers primarily shifted to "Don't Know", not to yes, implying not misinformation but rather lack of information (or undecided, or perhaps confused with this bad question). Notably, MSNBC from the other end of the political spectrum, which the paper praises, had a similar response -- again indicating that the problem may be with the question, not the respondents.

In addition, with timing, this survey was taken right after the Arab League announced a two week deadline on sanctions. This is not an insignificant fact, as it would have affected again the respondents view of "success".

Right now, which candidate seems to be leading in the polls for Republican Presidential nomination in 2012?

Fox news consumers were actually more likely to get this one right, according to the cited paper.

The question about Occupy Wallstreet is reasonable and probably OK.

In addition to the above problems with the cited poll, consider the following

This study found that Fox News watchers were more likely to want entertainment based news stories, again implying that they are differently informed, not "misinformed", and that Fox News viewers are more concerned with topics other than middle eastern revolutions.

This study exposes significant issues with using anecdotal self reporting of news exposure due to people drastically overreporting news exposure, meaning that we can't be sure that the people surveyed actually watched any of the news they claimed to. This reveals a significant flaw in the methodology of the poll cited.

It follows that apparent media effects may arise not because of differences in exposure, but because of unknown differences in the accuracy of reporting exposure.

Or... the problem is with your survey, not the news source.

The poll cited is not enough, on it's own, to support the claim made.

  • 16
    I'd go beyond your conclusion and conclude that the poll cited was designed to reach a set conclusion, the conclusion that Fox audiences are misinformed right wing extremists :)
    – jwenting
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 9:23
  • 8
    @jwenting -- I searched google scholor for other pubs by that group and they do appear to be VERY biased. I just wanted to go with the, IMO, stronger argument of the flawed methodology. Commented May 3, 2012 at 13:14
  • We have evidence that watching Fox makes you know less[publicmind.fdu.edu/2012/confirmed/]
    – liftarn
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 10:40
  • 5
    @SVilcans -- That's study suffers all the same problems enumerated in the study I linked. Also - correlation != causation. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 18:54
  • Another (somewhat anecdotal) tidbit tallying with the one of the last paragraphs - Fox News in general seems to be extremely entertainment skewed for purportedly "political news" outfit. Most likely, for sound business reasons - far more people are interested in entertainment than politics.
    – user5341
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 1:22

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