A poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University found that people who get their news from Fox News know significantly less about news both in the U.S. and the world than people who watch no news at all. The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 612 adults statewide was underwritten by WFDU-FM Radio and conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from Oct. 17 through Oct. 23, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.
Of the 612 New Jersey natives, Fox News fans flunked questions about Egypt and Syria when compared with people who do not watch the news at all. While 53 percent of New Jersyans know that Egyptians were successful in overthrowing the government of Hosni Mubarack, 21 percent say that the uprisings were unsuccessful, and 26 percent admit they do not know. Also, 48 percent know that the Syrian uprising has thus far been unsuccessful, while 36 percent say they don’t know, and 16 percent say the Syrians have already toppled their government. Fox viewers were 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians toppled their government and 6 points less likely to be aware that Syrians have not yet overthrown theirs.
Some media sources have showed a positive effect on political knowledge. For example, people who report reading a national newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today are 12-points more likely to know that Egyptians have overthrown their government than those who have not looked at any news source. And those who listen to the non-profit NPR radio network are 11-points more likely to know the outcome of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. However, the best informed respondents are those that watched Sunday morning news programs: leading to a 16-point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Egypt and an 8-point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Syria.
Sunday morning news shows do the most to help people learn about current events, while some outlets, especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who say they do not watch any news at all. Conversely, viewers of cable news on MSNBC are the most likely to think the protesters are Republicans. Watching the left-leaning MSNBC news channel is associated with a 10-point increase in the likelihood of misidentifying the protesters.
But the biggest aid to answering correctly is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which leads to a 6-point decrease in identifying the protesters as Republicans, and a 12-point increase in the likelihood of giving the correct answer.