In the first election since the Citizens United decision, misinformation played a central role. That’s the finding of a new study, Misinformation and the 2010 Election, from the University of Maryland’s World Public Opinion. Voters believe they heard more lies than in past elections. Researchers found voters were also influenced by the lies they didn’t catch.
The bad news for FOX News viewers is that merely watching the channel appears to be toxic. Most voters believed a few whoppers during the 2010 election cycle. But daily watchers of FOX News believed more misinformation than everyone else.
Are FOX viewers simply people who watch the station to reinforce misinformed views they already have? “No,” says Clay Ramsay, Research Director for the project, “Even Democratic voters who watched FOX News were more misinformed than others.” While all cable news earns some criticism from Ramsay, “FOX displays a particular pattern of misinformation. The more you watch the more inaccurate your views.”
The researchers didn’t originally intend to rank news outlets. They simply wanted to know sources of voter misinformation. Ramsay discovered the unusual FOX correlation—the more you watch the worse it gets—unexpectedly, while sifting through the data. FOX was alone in this regard.