In reality for years better studies by the PEW Foundation have shown that ALL cable news audience are less informed than people who listen to talk radio or read newspaper websites. CNN viewers are as badly informed as FOX; on the other hand Rush Limbaugh listeners are as well informed as NPR listeners.
The UMaryland study also fails to address such obvious issues as that FOX has a much bigger audience than other cable news channels, so that the average FOX audience includes a broader socioeconomic sample which the study disguises by averaging. So 6 million “Factor” viewers could include both 1-2 million viewers far more informed than the 1 million watching CNN or MSNBC as well as 1-2 million less informed. Then on average the FOX viewers might be less informed (on any particular set of proposed questions), while simultaneously the most informed viewers were watching FOX.
In addition the study fallaciously codes certain false answers to its questions as correct beliefs, e.g. that the economy is improving (even though in reality unemployment is rising from 9.6% to 9.8%), or that the Obama stimulus created or saved jobs (disproven, see http://reason.com/archives/2010/11/16/stimulus-still-not-working).
From a PEW study:
Which Audiences Know the Most?
Attention to the news is strongly associated with knowledge levels, but some news audiences know considerably more than others. Overall, 35% of the public was classified as having a high level of knowledge – on average, 18 correct answers out of the 23 total questions. Half or more of the audiences for six media sources scored this high: the comedy news shows and major newspaper websites (54% in the high knowledge group), the NewsHour (53%), National Public Radio (51%) and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show (50%). Regular readers of news magazines were not far behind (48%).
By contrast, the regular audiences for many other sources scored no higher than the sample average. The audiences for morning news (34% high knowledge), local TV news (35%), Fox News Channel (35%), blogs (37%), and the network evening news (38%) were not significantly different from the norm for the whole sample (35%). The audiences for CNN, internet news sites such as Google and Yahoo, local newspapers, and TV news organization websites scored slightly higher (41%-44% high knowledge).
This pattern is evident on many of the individual questions in the survey. For example, 32% of the public overall could name the Sunni branch of Islam, but 52% of readers of major newspaper websites could do so, as could 50% of the regular audience for the comedy news shows and 49% of NPR’s regular audience. Similarly, 29% of the general public could identify Lewis “Scooter” Libby, but 45% of the NewsHour audience and 41%-44% of the regular audiences of Bill O’Reilly, comedy news shows, NPR, Rush Limbaugh, the national newspaper websites, and news magazines could do so. On both of these questions, the audiences for morning news, local TV news, Fox News Channel, blogs, and the network evening news either matched or did only slightly better in answering correctly than did the average American.
The fact that a particular news source’s audience is very knowledgeable does not mean that people learned all that they know from that source. As noted earlier, some news sources draw especially well-educated audiences who are keenly interested in politics. Because of their education and life experiences, these individuals have more background information and may be better able to retain what they see in the news, regardless of where they see it.
Similarly, the news-hungry public tends to visit many outlets. The audiences for sources such as major TV news websites, the comedy shows, or the O’Reilly Factor tend to be fairly omnivorous in their media consumption – an average of more than seven separate sources for the regular audiences of each of these, compared with the overall average of 4.6 sources. Well-informed people do gravitate to particular places, but they also make use of a much wider range of news sources than do the less informed.
Still, differences in background characteristics and overall news habits do not explain all of the differences in knowledge across news audiences. Even after taking into account their overall news gathering habits and their political and demographic characteristics, the audiences for the comedy shows, The O’Reilly Factor, the web sites of national newspapers, and NPR all have significantly higher knowledge scores than the average.
The propaganda study is at: (http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brunitedstatescanadara/671.php?nid&id&pnt=671&lb)