In his 18-page study, titled “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics,” the proponent of supply-side economics (“trickle-down economics”) found that Fox News viewers tend to be less informed about current affairs than people who follow other news sources, including even people who don’t watch any news at all.
The study concluded that the network’s news coverage, designed to keep the GOP base in a perpetual outrage mode, has had the effect of pushing the party further away from the center.
The study observed that since Fox News opened under Roger Ailes in 1996, it has become the only news source for many conservatives who engage in what the study termed “self-brainwashing,” due to refusal to “even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through Fox, and to believe whatever appears on it as the gospel truth.”
“Like someone dying of thirst in the desert, conservatives drank heavily from the Fox waters. Soon, it became the dominant -and in many cases, virtually the only – major news source for millions of Americans… Indeed, it can almost be called self-brainwashing – many conservatives now refuse to even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through Fox…”
Bartlett wrote that Fox News shifted even further to the right after the 9/11 attacks, until it moved away from merely presenting a conservative perspective of the news to outright misinformation and propaganda making Fox News viewers the least informed of all media users.
The one-time adviser to Ron Paul, quoted Lincoln Mitchell, a Columbia University political scientist, who observed in 2012 that Fox News has managed to keep “a far right base mobilized and angry, making it hard for the party to move to the center or increase its appeal, as it must do to remain electorally competitive…”
“One of the reasons Mitt Romney was so unable to pivot back to the center was due to the drumbeat at Fox, which contributed to forcing him to the right during the primary season,” Mitchell added.
The study found that after controlling for information obtained from other news sources, level of education, partisanship and other relevant demographic factors, people who watched Fox News were 18-points less likely to know that the Egyptians overthrew their government. They were also found to be 6-points less likely to know that the Syrian government has not been overthrown.
Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Farleigh Dickinson, said, “The results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all.”
The study noted that misinformation by Fox News tends to lull viewers into a false sense as security. It cited a study from the University of Georgia which observed that, “exposure to programs featured on Fox News, such as those hosted by Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, resulted in a greater wishful thinking effect by Romney supporters.
“While Romney supporters were substantially more likely to predict their candidate would win the 2012 presidential election, watching Fox News programming exacerbated this effect.”
“It may be that some Republican Fox viewers became complacent and didn’t work as hard as they might if they had been more aware of how badly Romney was doing in the final days of the campaign,” the study concluded.
The study also found that Fox News viewers tend to hold beliefs about several major issues, such as the Iraq War and the Affordable Care Act that are not based on verifiable facts.
Fox’s audience also tends to hold a bias against minorities, such as Muslims and African-Americans.
The study said, “It appears that right-wing bias, including inaccurate reporting, became commonplace on Fox.”
Politifact.com, for instance, cites The Daily Show’s February, 2015 vine, titled “50 Fox News lies in 6 seconds,” which lists news reporting inaccuracies by the network:
“Look at the debt that has been accumulated in the last two years. It’s more debt under this president than all those other presidents combined.” “There is no good data showing secondhand smoke kills people.” “The Obama administration manipulated deportation data to make it appear that the Border Patrol was deporting more illegal immigrants than the Bush administration.” “NASA scientists fudged the numbers to make 1998 the hottest year to overstate the extent of global warming.”
“Far more children died last year drowning in their bathtubs than were killed accidentally by guns.”
Tucker Carlson, Aug. 9, 2014
Pants on Fire
Sarah Palin, May 31, 2011
John Stossel, Dec. 4, 2014
Lou Dobbs, July 1, 2014
Steve Doocy, June 24, 2014
Pants on Fire
“Look at the debt that has been accumulated in the last two years. It’s more debt under this president than all those other presidents combined.”
“There is no good data showing secondhand smoke kills people.”
“The Obama administration manipulated deportation data to make it appear that the Border Patrol was deporting more illegal immigrants than the Bush administration.”
“NASA scientists fudged the numbers to make 1998 the hottest year to overstate the extent of global warming.”
The Huffington Post notes that this is not the first time in recent years that someone with links to Republican administrations and the Republican Party has expressed concern about the role of Fox News.
In 2012, staunch conservative and GOP presidential nomination candidate Newt Gingrich, berated the network for its partial coverage of the GOP primaries, saying that “CNN is less biased than Fox this year. We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are of Fox, and we’re more likely to get distortion out of Fox. That’s just a fact.”
Former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK, 2005-2014) also criticized Fox News coverage of the immigration debate, saying the network’s shows were often not “fair and balanced.”
“There are certain shows on Fox I can’t watch. Because they’re totally not fair and totally not balanced. What I want is, I want all the information in which I can make the best decision,” he said.