Sunday, December 26, 2010

Leftist Lie of the Day

From Ramesh Ponnuru, here's a takedown of the new study going around that claims to show that Fox News viewers are especially misinformed:
Tom Maguire and Aaron Worthing have already pointed out that the study counts as "misinformation" beliefs that are really matters of opinion or arguably true claims.

For example, the study says the "correct" view is that most economists estimate the stimulus to have created several million jobs; but the study's own proffered sources for this claim, which are not impressive, suggest that it is exaggerated. In the absence of an actual survey of American economists--and I am not aware of any--how would we know which belief is correct? If we take most respondents to be offering their views on the effects of the stimulus rather than their views on the results of polls of economists, the "incorrect" view is even more defensible.

But leave this problem aside. The other defect of the study is that it tested for false (or supposedly false) views that conservatives were more likely to have than liberals. It tested for only one false view that anyone could have said in advance would be disproportionately held by liberals (the view that it had been proven that the Chamber of Commerce used foreign money to finance political ads). Meanwhile it tested for several myths with distinctive appeal to conservatives.

A more balanced look at widespread myths would have yielded different results. What if the survey had asked whether air pollution had gotten worse over the last three decades? Or whether Americans' life expectancies are worse than other peoples' when differences in lifestyle and crime rates are taken into account? Or whether education spending had gone down during the Bush administration? It would be very easy to construct a survey in which MSNBC viewers turned out to be less informed than Fox News viewers. And just as pointless.

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