Liberals will be crying over this. I can’t tell you how many debates I’ve had with liberals who pushed this “those who watch Fox News are dumber” meme. Another liberal myth busted. Poll after poll shows conservatives are better informed and more open-minded than their liberal counterparts but the left-wing blogosphere and media ran with the fake “Fox News viewers are stupid” claim.
A fake study claiming conservative viewers of FOX News were significantly dumber than conservatives who didn’t watch FOX News spread through the internet like wildfire, even though the briefest of attention to the details in this glorified press release should have raised suspicion. The pr guru behind the hoax — our term, not his — said he was surprised by how quickly and broadly the item spread but not by how easily its claims went unquestioned. “Facts are obsolete,” said P. Nichols, the contact given for the press release who claimed Nichols was his last name but refused to confirm his entire name, the name of the Republican PAC he says backed the “study” or any of the people behind the actual report he insisted did truly exist. And no, he wouldn’t send us a copy of it.
If you’re a liberal, it sounded too good to be true: a four year “study” by the Intelligence Institute found that viewers of Fox News who identified themselves as conservative had an average IQ of 80, some 20 points lower than those conservatives who got their news from other sources or did not watch the news at all. Typically, this was reduced online to the idea that people who watch FOX News are dumb, dumber than the national average or that watching FOX News makes you dumber.
The story — or rather the press release posted on PRWeb that was soon reposted on Yahoo News and numerous liberal political blogs as a genuine article — spread quickly, thanks to juicy quotes like this one from P. Nichols, named as the “lead researcher” on the study. “Several previous studies show that self-identified conservatives are less intelligent than self-identified moderates,” said Nichols in the press release he himself wrote. “We have never seen such a homogeneous group teetering so close to special needs levels.” Nichols also quoted himself as saying, “Fox News’ content is presented at an elementary school level and plays directly into the fears of the less educated and less intelligent.”
Since then, sites like Daily Kos have noted that the study was likely a hoax. And for good reason.
*The Intelligence Institute does not exist — It was a name created by Nichols and his team to give the “study” they were releasing some credibility. They didn’t even bother to create a fake website as a front for the imaginary group. However, that may change. Nichols said that this study/press release was so effective that now perhaps there was some value to the name of The Intelligence Institute and they might use it for other studies they did or perhaps even create an actual conservative non-profit group.
*The lead researcher P. Nichols was not the lead researcher — When asked various questions about the methodology of the study, Nichols — who was reached by a Google Voice phone number that forwarded the call to his real telephone number — said that wasn’t really his area of expertise. But wasn’t he the “lead researcher?” He admitted that may not be the most appropriate title for his role. So what title would he choose? Nichols thought for a minute, tossed out “publicity” and then settled on “maybe project manager?”