May 23, 2012 01:00 PM EDT
NPR viewers targeted as most-informed, Fox viewers least informed
A survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind suggests that National Public Radio listeners are the most informed citizens when it comes to current events, while viewers exposed to partisan sources, such as Fox News and MSNBC, were the least informed.
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People who watch no news at all can answer more questions about international current events than people who watch cable news, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind finds.
People who watch MSNBC and CNN exclusively can answer more questions about domestic events than people who watch no news at all. People who only watch Fox did much worse, according to the survey results. NPR listeners answered more questions correctly than people in any other category.
The survey was conducted by landline and cell phone calls among 1,185 people in early February.
Each respondent was asked four of eight questions. "On average, people were able to answer correctly 1.8 of 4 questions about international news, and 1.6 of 5 questions about domestic affairs," the report says. Here's the breakdown by viewing habits.
The report explains:
The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly - a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. On the other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly; viewers of Sunday morning talk shows fare similarly well. And people watching only The Daily Show with Jon Stewart could answer about 1.42 questions correctly.
"On average, people were able to answer correctly 1.8 of 4 questions about international news, and 1.6 of 5 questions about domestic affairs," according to the report. But depending on the match between ideology and viewing habits, the score could be lower or higher.
FDU political scientist Dan Cassino told NPR that the results show "Ideological news sources, like Fox and MSNBC, are really just talking to one audience.... This is solid evidence that if you're not in that audience, you're not going to get anything out of watching them."
News organizations' tone and allocation of resources also apparently affected respondents' abilities to answer questions. NPR has as many domestic bureaus as foreign ones; its listeners did best on questions about international events. "Daily Show" viewers were next. On domestic questions, people who watched Sunday news shows did nearly as well as NPR listeners.
Source: NPR; Fairleigh Dickinson University