Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Media Unfair to Fox News: Buddhism and Moderator Variables

Fox News viewers less informed about current events than those who don’t watch news at all, study finds 

Viewers less likely to know Egypt overthrew government: survey

If  Fox News viewers want to be informed about current events, they might as well turn off the TV.

A poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University on Monday 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.

In a survey of 612 New Jersey natives, Fox News fans flunked questions about Egypt and Syria when compared with people who don't watch the news. 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.

"Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News," Dan Cassino, a Fairleigh Dickinson professor who served as an analyst for the poll, said in the report. "Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions that those who don't watch any news at all."

The Practical Buddhist Responds

I'm no friend of Fox News. They probably pander more than most to the lowest common denominator--- folks who want "news" that entertains, titillates, and makes them feel good by reinforcing their prejudices. Fox News is a short step up from right-wing hate radio.  But I don't much like the rest of network news either.  They're only a short step up from Fox. PBS news is pretty good, but it's work to watch it. MSNBC can be fun, but Rachel and her cronies are just tarted up, smarter opposites of the anger mongers on the right.

So why care about moderator variables?  Because if you understand them, it will be much harder to lie to you with statistics.

Start here.  Did you know that in grade school taller students are better readers than shorter students, by big margins?  Did you know that this has been true in every single study without exception, no matter what teaching method is used?  How can this be so?

It's so because of moderator variables. A moderator variable can explain why A (reading level) and C (height) are related in every grade school.  To oversimplify a bit, the moderator variable is age.  Older students are in higher grades.  If you're 11 you probably read better than a six-year-old.  You're also taller than a first grader. Now you see why the taller students in grade school do better at reading.

It's so easy to deceive with statistics.

What are the moderator variables that make Fox viewers so ignorant about current events?  I don't know, but it's not because Fox has been saying that the Egyptians didn't overthrow Mubarek or that the Syrian uprising has been a great success.  Like CNN and MSNBC, they tend to get the basic headlines right. Clearly it's something else about Fox viewers, probably some factor or factors they have in common that drew them to Fox in the first place.  What's your best guess?