Surprise: Fox News Viewers are Most Misinformed About Climate Science, Study Confirms

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It's almost become a cliche to point out that Fox News is less a reliable news organization and more of an ideological agenda-setter for the American conservative movement. As such, the statement itself has come to be regarded less as a fact than liberal griping. Which is why it's important to remember that all that griping is actually founded in facts.

Studies have previously been conducted to determine whether the existence of a so-called 'Fox News Effect' -- whether people who use Fox to get most of their news are more misinformed about world events and scientific truths, and whether that misinformation skews towards supporting a conservative political agenda. The answer, it seems, has largely been a resounding 'yes'.

Here's Chris Mooney, a journalist who has dedicated his career to examining the ways in which the modern Republican party distorts science, writing at DeSmog Blog (emphasis mine):

There really does seem to be a “Fox News effect," then, and one that is playing a central role in driving our political divide over reality in the U.S. And now comes a true tour-de-force seventh study showing that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed, this time once again about global warming.

The new paper ... is just out in the International Journal of Press/Politics, by communication scholar Lauren Feldman of American University and her colleagues. The paper is quite sophisticated, and performs several powerful analyses. ... Feldman and her colleagues reported on their analysis of a 2008 national survey, which found that “Fox News viewing manifests a significant, negative association with global warming acceptance.” Viewers of the station were less likely to agree that “most scientists think global warming is happening” and less likely to think global warming is mostly caused by human activities, among other measures. Viewers of CNN and MSNBC were the opposite.

In fact, Mooney notes, that self-identifying Republicans who watch CNN are more likely to get the facts right on global warming. Here's a snippet from the study itself:
Of the three networks, Fox News was simultaneously the least likely to be accepting and the most likely to be dismissive of climate change. Nearly 60 percent of Fox News broadcasts were dismissive of climate change, whereas less than 20 percent were accepting of climate change. On the other hand, more than 70 percent of CNN and MSNBC broadcasts were accepting of climate change. Not a single MSNBC broadcast took a dismissive tone toward climate change and just 7 percent of CNN broadcasts did so.
There is a good deal of supporting evidence that this is the result of a concerted effort, too -- we've shared memos from Fox executives exhorting its reporters to always question global warming when mentioning it in a story (to convey a general sense of doubt) and demonstrated how those executives have an unusually proactive role in shaping the tenor of news coverage on a daily basis.

Now, it's not like Fox is some lone bad actor nefariously seeking to push an anti-climate change agenda -- there are numerous interests that benefit from climate confusion, the richest and most powerful of whom also support climate-denying conservative political candidates and sponsor the think tanks that Fox draws much of its ideological substance from. Conservative values voters, who are primarily concerned with issues like gay marriage and abortion, are also more likely to watch Fox -- and more likely to resist the notion of climate change on religious grounds. Fox merely perpetuates a vicious cycle by feeding climate misinformation into what has become a massive feedback loop, making it increasingly harder to communicate the facts about global warming to millions of Americans.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Television

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