Unscientific Rubbish: Fox News Makes You Stupid? FDU’s Data and Methodology are an Incoherent Mess
Firstly, this entry will be prefaced by noting that The Reactionary Researcher (TRR) has no stake here; TRR has never and will never utilize FoxNews for his information concerning world events. For that matter TRR does not obtain his news from any television based sources.
A “study” has been making a big hit on the internet with its claim that “Some News Leaves People Knowing Less”. Within the first paragraph of this Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll, the authors note that some news outlets,
especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.
This has been enthusiastically picked up by a variety of sources that have gleefully highlighted the point regarding FoxNews:
- Poll: Fox News Viewers Less Informed Than Those Who Read No News
- Surprise! Fox News Makes You Stupid
- Study Confirms That Fox News Makes You Stupid
Literally hundreds of other websites make similarly irresponsible, uninformed, and ridiculous claims. TRR is doubtful that any of these sources actually bothered to consult the original FDU poll.
Let’s straighten up a couple of things right off the bat: Firstly, this is no “study”, it’s a phone poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) that asked 612 random people in NJ exactly four questions, the answers to which were subsequently used to extrapolate this information.
Secondly, it is noteworthy that the fact that Talk Radio, the true news source for most conservatives, had an allegedly positive effect on people’s degree of ‘being informed’ went unnoted by any of the outlets that highlighted the story. Go figure.
Irrespective of what the results say, they are an incoherent and indecipherable mess, that as a consequence of being based on flawed methodology, are ultimately, meaningless.
TRR has reproduced some of the actual data from FDU PublicMind Poll below to illustrate the serious flaw in their methodology:
The instructions seem relatively straightforward:
“say “yes” if you got news from that source any time in the past week.”
Look at the data, note that each news source adds up to 100%, meaning that when they were on the phone with the respondents, the interviewer simply went down the list of sources, the respondent replied with a “Yes” if they had consulted any particular news source, and the interviewer simply scored it as positive or negative.
The implication of this is that nearly every respondent in this survey consulted more than one news source, and more importantly, the methodology employed by FDU did not isolate people who viewed only FOXNews, indeed it’s not likely there were many who viewed only a single source..
The statistics are right there: The Probability that a person views FoxNews and a consults a local newspaper can be calculated (statistically speaking, not in reality), and is 0.64 x 0.74, or about 47%. Similarly the probability that a person viewed Fox News, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and NPR is 0.64 x 0.18 x 0.21, or roughly 2.5%.
Allow me to re-emphasize the most important point: Because the respondents simply responded “Yes” when they had consulted a particular news source in the past week, it is impossible to isolate persons who consulted FoxNews and only FoxNews as a source of information. Had the interviewers isolated who viewed which single news source, the data associated with question one would be hard numbers, indicating the number of respondents who viewed each news source, instead we’re given relative viewing percentages.
In other words, given their methodology it is impossible to correlate knowledge of anything specific with FoxNews, or any other news outlet for that matter.
Given their methodology with respect to the first question, one wonders how they were able to extrapolate the information that was used to construct the table associated with question two, which is shown below:
To break these data down, or at least what the authors are attempting to imply with the data is that, for example, of those who listen to NPR, 68% believe the coup in Egypt was successful, 18% believe that it wasn’t, and 14% don’t know. Similarly, of those who watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, 68% believe the coup in Egypt was successful, 20% believe that it wasn’t, and 13% don’t know, etc.
Again, the problem with this is that the data provided by FDU don’t permit one to extrapolate this information. There is no information here regarding which information was derived from FoxNews, specifically.
The remaining questions and data suffer from this same fallacy.
The methodology employed by FDU as published in their online report, makes it impossible to discern which respondent derived what information from which source, and ultimately makes this poll and any and all associated conclusions, Unscientific Rubbish.
Rather than consulting FoxNews making a person stupid, reading, believing, and standing up for a “study” such as this, is the type of thing that will truly render a person, stupid.