In his June 19 appearance on Fox News Sunday, Comedy Central's Daily Show host Jon Stewart fiercely denounced the Fox News Channel as uniquely biased, and slammed those who watch Fox News as "the most consistently misinformed media viewers....Consistently -- every poll."
Unfortunately for Stewart, he was relying on a methodologically-flawed survey from the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) that in December trumpeted how "those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe...." and then listed a series of supposedly false statements.
But many of the study's supposedly false statements of fact were actually opinions that liberals don't share.
For example, Fox News viewers were most likely to believe that "most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit" and that "the economy is getting worse." Agreeing with those statements got you branded as "misinformed" based on the authority of a) the Congressional Budget Office on ObamaCare's impact on the deficit, and b) the Bureau of Economic Analysis declaring that the recession officially ended in June 2009.
As anyone who closely followed the health care debate understood, the nonpartisan CBO was required to accept the budgetary assumptions of the partisan Democrats who crafted the ObamaCare bill, so it's hardly a sign of ignorance to believe the bill will drain the Treasury like every other big entitlement program in the past 75 years.
As for feeling that the economy is still getting worse, public confidence is usually one of the last indicators to turn positive after a recession. After the 1990 recession officially ended, huge majorities of the public in late 1991 and in 1992 still told pollsters that they felt the U.S. was in either a "recession" or a "depression" -- "misinformation" that must have been spread without the Fox News Channel, which was not established until 1996.
As for Stewart's "every poll" claim, that's not true, either -- other surveys have used less prejudiced questions to try to test the public's knowledge, and rate Fox News viewers as among the most informed. In 2008, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked respondents to identify which party held the majority in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister of Britain, and the current Secretary of State. Unlike the PIPA study, these were genuinely fact-based questions without ideological baggage.
Just under a fifth of those polled (18%) could answer all three questions, while a third (33%) couldn't answer any of them. But among those who exceeded the national average were viewers of FNC's Hannity & Colmes and The O'Reilly Factor -- as well as viewers of Stewart's The Daily Show and Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.
At the bottom of the list: regular consumers of CBS News, Access Hollywood, and the National Enquirer.