Inaccurate Media Coverage Led to High Public Support for War
The next time you see the phrase “Fair and Balanced” about Fox News, or wonder how much of an impact right-wing propaganda can have in this country in the selling of a war, remember this study.
A majority of Americans have held at least one of three mistaken impressions about the U.S.-led war in Iraq, according to a new study released Thursday, and those misperceptions contributed to much of the popular support for the war.
The three common mistaken impressions are that:
U.S. forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq;
There's clear evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein worked closely with the Sept. 11 terrorists; and
People in foreign countries generally either backed the U.S.-led war or were evenly split between supporting and opposing it.
Overall, 60 percent of Americans held at least one of those views in polls reported between January and September by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, based at the University of Maryland in College Park, and the polling firm, Knowledge Networks based in Menlo Park, Calif.
These were not small-sample polls either.
PIPA's seven polls, which included 9,611 respondents, had a margin of error from 2 to 3.5 percent.
But the fact from this set of polls that should tell you everything you need to know about the lack of veracity of Fox and the right-wing media is this:
The analysis released Thursday also correlated the misperceptions with the primary news source of the mistaken respondents. For example, 80 percent of those who said they relied on Fox News and 71 percent of those who said they relied on CBS believed at least one of the three misperceptions.
The comparable figures were 47 percent for those who said they relied most on newspapers and magazines and 23 percent for those who said they relied on PBS or National Public Radio.
Aside from the Bush Administration’s efforts to manipulate and mislead the public in selling the war, the study found that the media itself was also quite culpable for the misconceptions held by the public.
Kull cited instances in which TV and newspapers gave prominent coverage to reports that banned weapons might have been found in Iraq, but only modest coverage when those reports turned out to be wrong.
Susan Moeller, a University of Maryland professor, said that much reporting had consisted of "stenographic coverage of government statements," with less attention to whether the government's statements were accurate.
Something those of us in the blogosphere have known all along.