As with Iraq and most other issues there has been one easy way to identify which Americans are misinformed–check who watches Fox. Poll after poll show that the more you watch Fox, the dumber you are. First Read notes that polling support for health care reform has fallen due to rampant misinformation:
One of the reasons why the public appears so wary about Obama’s health-care plans is due to all the misinformation out there. Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants (55%), would lead to a government takeover of the health system (54%), and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions (50%) — all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress. Additionally, 45% think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly, which also isn’t true. When you have nearly half of the public believing that the government is willing to pull the plug on grandma, you’re in trouble.
They further looked at who is the most likely to believe such misinformation. The numbers are highest for Fox, but many viewers of the supposedly “liberal media” also believe much of the misinformation:
Here’s another way to look at the misinformation: In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care 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. But it would be incorrect to suggest that this is ONLY coming from conservative viewers who tune in to FOX. In fact, 41% of CNN/MSNBC viewers believe the misinformation about illegal immigrants, 39% believe the government takeover stuff, 40% believe the abortion misperception, and 30% believe the stuff about pulling the plug on grandma. What’s more, a good chunk of folks who get their news from broadcast TV (NBC, ABC, CBS) believe these things, too. This is about credible messengers using the media to get some of this misinformation out there, not as much about the filter itself. These numbers should worry Democratic operatives, as well as the news media that have been covering this story.
In this case we would be better off we we really did have a liberal media in contrast to Fox. The media typically presents true statements from liberals along with misinformation from the far right and believes this is the way to provide balance. Fortunately, considering how dishonest the Republicans have been during the health care debate, many objective sources have been posting fact checking to demonstrate this.
Steve Benen places the pattern of misinformation from Fox in perspective:
Matt Corley added, “As ThinkProgress has pointed out, Fox News regularly distorts the truth about health care reform. Last week, Media Matters found that over a two day period opponents of health care reform outnumbered supporters by a 6-to-1 margin on Fox.”
Let’s also not forget that this is consistent with recent history — in the midst of national policy debates, Fox News viewers routinely get key details wrong more often than the rest of the public. Six months into the war in Iraq, for example, the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland released a report on Americans’ understanding of the basics. PIPA found that those who relied on the Republican network were “three times more likely than the next nearest network to hold all three misperceptions — about WMD in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was involved with 9/11, and foreign support for the U.S. position on the war in Iraq.”
Fox News viewers would have done better, statistically speaking, if they had received no news at all and simply guessed whether the claims were accurate. Matters have clearly not improved.