Fox News' stridently pro-Bush stance during the recent war in Iraq helped it overtake the previous sector leader CNN, becoming the most popular information channel.
But a just-released study from the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes implies that the impartiality of Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox's news reporting failed to measure up to its popularity ratings.
The program sought to discover exactly how well informed the US public were as to the reasons leading up to the war and its consequences.
Taking as its yardstick three widespread misperceptions, the survey found that irrespective of news source, 48% of all Americans believed the US had identified links between Iraq and Al Qaeda; 22% thought that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq; and 25% that world public opinion backed the US going to war on Iraq.
Among Fox viewers, however, 80% believed one or more of those misperceptions. This compares with 71% of CBS viewers; 61% of ABC viewers; and 55% each of those who followed the war either via NBC or CNN. Of those who got their news from print sources, only 47% believed likewise, as did a mere 23% of viewers and listeners to public broadcasting media.
The study also found that among those Americans who did not believe any of these misperceptions, only 23% supported the war. This rose to 53% among those who believed one of the statements. As many as 78% of those who believed two of the statements endorsed the war and 86% of those who believed all three misconceptions supported the war.
Comments Stephen Kull, director of PIPA: "While we can not assert that these misperceptions created the support for going to war with Iraq, it does appear likely that support for the war would be substantially lower if fewer members of the public had these misperceptions."
Data sourced from: www.pipa.org; additional content by WARC staff