Who’s Illinformed?

Last week (November 12), in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Howard Meyerson recalled with some glee his report in 2003 of

…a survey from the Program for International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and the Knowledge Network … showed that 45 percent of Fox viewers believed that the United States had uncovered incontrovertible proof that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda had worked together; that we had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; and that a majority of peoples in other lands supported our war in Iraq. In case these bizarre misconceptions merely reflected the a priori beliefs of President Bush’s supporters, PIPA further documented that Bush backers who got their news from other networks had a decidedly firmer grasp of the facts.

Apparently, viewers of Fox News are illinformed and viewers of other news networks are well informed (at least by comparison). The op-ed piece is a thank-you note to Roger Ailes from Meyerson for what Meyerson calls “…a great gift to liberals and Democrats.” Meyerson obviously believes ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are the real “fair and balanced” media. For this belief – and many others, I am sure – Meyerson is a crackpot.

It is interesting that Meyerson chose to reflect back some 5 years or more to study relationships between “grasp of facts” and one’s news sources. With one small assumption – namely that most Obama voters are not Fox News junkies – we have a much more recent poll from which to draw conclusions. And, unlike PIPA and Knowledge Network, I have actually heard of the organization conducting this poll.

I am speaking of the recent Zogby poll of Obama voters. This was a 12-question multiple choice “test”. It showed that

most Obama voters remembered negative coverage of McCain/Palin statements but struggled to correctly answer questions about coverage associated with Obama/Biden.

The questions included the following:

Campaign in All 57 States

Campaign in All 57 States

Coal and Energy Bankruptcy

Redistribute the Wealth

Redistribute the Wealth

Hey Howard, what can we conclude from this poll? One thing I conclude is that these results square with my first-hand observations. I think I understand Obama’s appeal to his supporters. But I also think those supporters have expressed precious little curiosity about Obama beyond his rhetoric.  When I shared my concerns over Obama’s record and relationships with friends and colleagues, I received a collective “I don’t know” or “I don’t care”. This “I don’t know / I don’t care” attitude is one reason that McCain’s campaign was seen as so negative. McCain kept trying to pound away at Obama’s record and (at least some) relationships, and was perceived as being negative simply because Obama supporters didn’t want to know and didn’t want to care, so strong was their Bush Derangement Syndrome.

I have seen at least one analysis that claims that the Zogby poll is flawed because, in part, it was commissioned by a Republican supporter, John Ziegler, who is preparing a documentary on Media Malpractice…How Obama Got Elected. Zogby, however, has stated that he stands behind the poll.

For the documentary, Ziegler captured the following video footage, apparently on election day:

Watch Portion of Ziegler Documentary

Is the poll and video documentary tainted by partisan sour grapes? I don’t know … and … I don’t care.

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