November 23, 2014

Survey Says Fox News Viewers the Least Informed … NPR Isn’t Much Better

The stupid.  It burns.  It burns badly.  Farleigh Dickenson University did a survey, asking 9 questions of its sample.  On average, Fox viewers could answer only 2, NPR listeners 3.5.  I wondered, “How hard could this test be?” so I found the questions online.  

These were ridiculously easy.  Maybe all is lost and I’m hanging out in Tyre before the great fall, oblivious to the ignorance around me.

The Farleigh Dickenson University Survey

Question 1. To the best of your knowledge, have the opposition groups protesting in Egypt been successful in removing Hosni Mubarak?

Uh.  Yes.  And they think his family is hiding billions in wealth that was stolen from the Egyptian people during his time at the head of the government.  This was huge news at the time.

Question 2. How about the opposition groups in Syria? Have they been successful in removing Bashar al-Assad?

Seriously?  The European papers are constantly complaining about his wife’s shopping trips at the best retail boutiques in the world as he continues to run the government.  The stories are always accompanied by pictures of her wearing something from Hermes or Cartier or Louis Vuitton.  No.  He’s still there.

Question 3. Some countries in Europe are deeply in debt, and have had to be bailed out by other countries. To the best of your knowledge, which country has had to spend the most money to bail out European countries?

If you read this blog, you should know the answer to this.  Phone a friend?  It’s a super industrious people who make fantastic cars and serve up their bailouts mit bier und wienerschnitzel.

Question 4. There have been increasing talks about economic sanctions against Iran. What are these sanctions supposed to do?

Hmm… I’ll give you a clue.  The objective is to stop them from getting the very thing I used on Aaron’s kingdom in Civilization V a few nights ago before marching Giant Death Robots on his capitol.  You can probably guess by the black pillaging towers of smoke, the radiated ground glowing red with the fires of nuclear destruction.

Giant Death Robots Nuclear Missile Civilization V

Care to take a guess?

Question 5. Which party has the most seats in the House of Representatives right now?

Well, John Boehner is the current Speaker of the House so I’m going with Republicans, Alex.  

Question 6. In December, House Republicans agreed to a short-term extension of a payroll tax cut, but only if President Obama agreed to do what?

+100 Internets to Gilvus in the comments section!  I read the original question in my head as the December 2010 original debate over the payroll tax cut, which dealt with maintaining the lower top marginal rate on personal income taxes, not the December 2011 extension, which involved the Keystone pipeline.

Question 7. It took a long time to get the final results of the Iowa caucuses for Republican candidates. In the end, who was declared the winner?

That little fascists Rick Santorum by something like six votes.  

Question 8. How about the New Hampshire Primary? Which Republican won that race?

Mitt Romney.

Question 9. According to official figures, about what percentage of Americans are currently unemployed?

Roughly double the ideal structural rate so it is somewhere around 8% to 9% bouncing around depending on the most recent revised figures.  It’s closer to the lower end of that at the present but I don’t recall the precise figure of the most recent update.  (Edit: I had to look it up.  It was 8.1%)

The Ship Is Sinking

I’m in the middle of several big projects at the office, the home renovations still aren’t done, I am weeks behind on personal stuff and I still know all of this.  If the average American could only answer 2 to 3.5 of those questions, this sucker is doomed.  The Republic is going to hell.  Get me out of here.

  • Gilvus

    Strongly disagree.

    – The survey itself is heavily flawed due to non-sampling and other hidden biases. Take a look at the methodology section and you’ll see them yourself. The most egregious flaw is that “I don’t know” answers are encouraged, so they don’t indicate the respondent is actually ignorant of the correct answer.
    – You live off of your passive income, so your time is flexible. Most people sell their labor for income, so they don’t have that luxury.
    – Current events are transient. The opportunity cost of keeping up with current events is pursuit of things that last or actually affect the average American, such as scientific knowledge or quality relationships with friends and family.

    Also, according to the survey data tables the correct answer to question 6 is about the Keystone XL pipeline.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com Joshua Kennon

      I am glad to hear that the methodology was bad, I hadn’t had a chance to look at it, yet. Good catch on the keystone pipeline, I misread the question as the debate when the payroll tax was first introduced ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/us/politics/07cong.html?pagewanted=all

      I am not sure the time factor matters. Yes, my time is more flexible than others but I work harder in a lot of ways that anyone I know. On the other hand I do only sleep 4 hours a night most nights and wake up feeling great so maybe there is a built in advantage there. I don’t like to talk in the morning when I wake up so I often find myself reading international newspapers over coffee wrapped in a blanket. It also could be a lot of osmosis absorbed through the fact that so much of one of the retirement funds is in European equities due to the discounts we received over the past few years that I pay more attention to facts picked up as part of relevant stories.

    • Joshua Kennon

      Good catch on the keystone pipeline! I misread the question as the debate when the payroll tax was first introduced, not the renewal.  ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/us/politics/07cong.html?pagewanted=all

      It was sloppy of me.   +100 Internets to you!

      I am glad to hear that the survey methodology was bad. I hadn’t had a chance to look at it, yet, because I got sucked into a marathon of shows on Netflix as I worked in my home study for the furniture deliveries next week.  I’m too embarrassed  to even tell you which show it is because it is so over-the-top ridiculously, horrifically cheesy.  On the level of Buffy-the-Vampire camp, a show for which I made fun of many of my friends for watching. Now I’m just as guilty.

      P.S. I am not sure the time factor matters. Yes, my time is more flexible than others but I also work harder, and more frequently, in a lot of ways that anyone I know. On the other hand I do only sleep 4-6 hours a night most nights and wake up feeling great so maybe there is a built in advantage there. Cumulatively, over the course of years, it would be huge, I suppose. Also, I don’t like to talk in the morning when I wake up so I often find myself reading international newspapers over coffee wrapped in a blanket. It also could be a lot of osmosis absorbed through the fact that so much of one of the retirement funds is in European equities due to the discounts we received over the past few years that I pay more attention to facts picked up as part of relevant stories.  It’s hard to understand what is happening with a distillery in Denmark if you don’t know what is going on with the Euro.

      • Gilvus

        I’m not saying the survey has no merit…but it’s like gauging the temperature with your finger rather than using a thermometer. Even well-conducted surveys contain lots of bias that can’t be avoided or proven/disproven (e.g. What if certain characteristics, such as intelligence/race/political affiliation, makes someone more likely to answer surveys than everyone else?)

        I think a bigger thing here is what matters to most people. Let’s say John Doe had up-to-the-minute updates on the Arab Spring and Jane Doe couldn’t even find the Middle East on a map. Both would be affected by fluctuating gas prices, but because neither of them trade oil futures John Doe doesn’t gain anything (except maybe righteous indignation) and Jane Doe doesn’t lose anything (except maybe a greater worldview).

        My point is, you care deeply about politics because it’s intertwined with your line of work. Keeping up-to-date with the finest details allows you to profit from arbitrage, derivatives, and other big words that would send Joe-on-the-street into an intellectual coma. Average Joe is just a cog in the wheel. Even if he knew what was going on around the world, there’s little he can do about it. If he keeps current with current events, it takes time away from him to do his day job, exercise, play with his kids, walk the dog, and enjoy Game of Thrones (or whatever) with his wife.

    • Joshua Kennon

      There!  Fixed it above and credited you.

      • Gilvus

         Yay! I now have 100 units of an abstract concept, with an unspecified intrinsic value per unit.

        …time to auction them off on Ebay.

        • Joshua Kennon

          You caught me off guard and made me laugh, almost causing me to choke on extremely hot, black coffee and spill it all over my papers as we were in the car on the highway this afternoon, running errands. That is my new definition of Internets. “An abstract concept, with an unspecified intrinsic value per unit.” I love it.

        • Gilvus

          I disclaim responsibility for any “LOSS OR INJURY OR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL,
          SPECIAL, PUNITIVE OR SIMILAR DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF YOUR ACCESS OR USE
          OF, OR YOUR INABILITY TO ACCESS OR USE” my internet comments.

          (I stole that from your site’s user agreement).

        • Joshua Kennon

          Well played. Well played, indeed.

          If this were a 1970’s movie, this is the moment I would narrow my eyes and be petting a persian cat.

  • Ian Francis

    I’m sorry, but as flawed as this survey may have been, people are still idiots. It’s not the news source, it’s the person. I listen to NPR most mornings on the way to work and I can’t remember a day when Syria and Egypt aren’t mentioned. I knew the answer to every one of these questions from listening to NPR. My guess is most of these “NPR listeners” are actually just tuning in for Car Talk on the weekends. You could even get these answers solely from listening to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” once a week.

    Gilvus: Sorry, but optimism only goes so far. We are all doomed.

    Josh: Start looking for a good uninhibited island to move to after the fall of civilization. The doomsday prophecies may come tre after all.

    • Gilvus

       ಠ_ಠ I find your lack of faith disturbing.

      • Ian Francis

        The validity of a point is not dictated by how comfortable it makes you feel.

    • Joshua Kennon

      Found it! The island has a “complete physical plant that powers all of the buildings and the marine housing three generators (580 kw, combined)”

      I say we get a handful of people to split it. Maybe 5 families, only $6 million each, plus the cost of the houses, etc. so round up and call it $10 million each by the time improvements were done.

      http://www.christiesrealestate.com/PropertyDetails/90605/1759178/716/8#90605/1759178/716/8

      Oh, and I insist on this. I need this thing:
      http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m2lqjgsP0s1r9bu4go1_500.jpg

      • Ian Francis

        Yes and yes. I am somewhat concerned that the island is still a bit close to civilization, though, and once society declined, would get caught up in the inevitable nuclear exchange and subsequent fallout. but otherwise Ashly and I are in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jacobxcaliber Kristoffer Adams

    It is sad that we don’t know these answers as a people but i think you can argue that only a small majority need to know these in the first place. I would say that the ones who keep things going should know like say congress how many of them would fail this test.  I am sure all of us would be curious about that. Most people are happy being passive and not knowing anything they are followers. A follower doesn’t care to be informed they just do what they are told.

    • Ian Francis

      Well I’d say it’s true that most people don’t need to know these facts, but just the fact that so many don’t tells me that they don’t care. I mean we are talking about people who actually watch the news and still don’t pick up these facts. What the heck are they doing? Obviously not paying attention to the very program they are watching. I know Fox News tends to be the most watered down of the news channels, but it still talks about these topics. It tells me that people are just looking for confirmation that someone out there holds their opinion, and don’t pay my attention to the actual news content of these programs.

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