Science: The More Fox News You Watch, the Stupider You GetS

A new study shows that Fox News viewers are more likely to believe demonstrably false things than viewers of other networks. Which is to be expected. But it also shows that the more you watch, the more misinformed you get.

The study, by WorldPublicOpinion.org [pdf], which is affiliated with the University of Maryland, asked 616 voters whether they believed a variety of demonstrably false assertions, like "my taxes have gone up under Obama" (they have in fact gone down). Unsurprisingly, vast percentages of voters believed falsehoods: 53%, for instance, believe most economist estimated health care reform to increase the deficit over the next decade. Only 13% believed the opposite—most economists have estimated that it will lower the deficit, which has the benefit of being true.

Of course, it makes sense that the people who believe these untrue things also get their news from Fox News, our nation's premier purveyor of untrue things. What's fascinating is that the likelihood that a voter believes falsehoods increases with that voter's time spent viewing Fox News, while the opposite dynamic is true of other outlets—the more you watch CNN or MSNBC, the less likely you are to believe untrue things. Fox is a bizarro news network, where viewers tune in to keep up to date with the latest lies.

The chart above shows how CNN informs viewers, increasing the likelihood that they understand the true fact that an overwhelming majority of scientists believe in global warming the more they watch. And it shows how Fox News disinforms them. Frequent CNN viewers are twice as likely to understand the truth about global warming as non-viewers; frequent Fox News viewers are half as likely.