Republicans Better Informed

A new Pew survey shows a rather steep “Partisan Knowledge Gap,” with Republicans and Independents generally better informed than Democrats.

Party Knowledge Gap: Republicans Better Informed

Mary Katharine Ham finds this quite amusing and also notes that, “if the polling had gone the other way, the NYT would shout it from the rooftops.”  She provides examples of the mainstream press doing just that on previous occasions.

We’d need a more wide-ranging set of questions and more replication over time to make any definitive conclusions about the relative knowledge of various partisans.   This does, however, seem to belie the recent White House-approved meme that Fox News and its ilk aren’t really news outlets.   The fact of the matter is — and this has been borne out over time — that people who listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity are among the best informed people out there.   It’s not that those hosts are unbiased — Lord knows, they are — but because they draw an audience that’s much more interested in the news than most Americans.

CNN’s current business model is straight news, with the opinion shows pushed to their sister HLN.  But people actually watch Fox.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Wayne says:

    “CNN’s current business model is straight news, with the opinion shows pushed to their sister HLN.”

    Do you ever watch CNN? They are bias and opinionated as Hell. Yes they try to package their opinions as objective news but it is not. They are lying not only to us but themselves.

  2. Triumph says:

    Democrats are dumb–what a revelation! Look who they nominated for Prez–School Lunch Barry!

  3. Dustin says:

    I guess we’re using informed rather loosely here. That chart shows what the right wing media is more prone to be enraged about, not necessarily more informed on.

    Pretty well every item in the chart, up to Baucus, has been a hot topic to knock Obama with, or item to rally around and oppose, at some point within the right wing media, where it hasn’t necessarily had the counter support on the left. If you were to have done a similar poll 5 years ago on issues left wing citizens were concerned about, would we see the trend flipped? I suspect it’s possible.

  4. Ben says:

    Why on earth is “Who is Glenn Beck” a question that was included with all of these others? Why should a democrat (or anyone else who isn’t a line-toeing republican lapdog) give a crap who Glenn Beck is? What does that prove?

  5. Eric Florack says:

    Pretty well every item in the chart, up to Baucus, has been a hot topic to knock Obama with, or item to rally around and oppose, at some point within the right wing media, where it hasn’t necessarily had the counter support on the left. If you were to have done a similar poll 5 years ago on issues left wing citizens were concerned about, would we see the trend flipped? I suspect it’s possible.

    The per -party breakdowns of Fox viewers would seem to defeat this argument out of hand. Simply put fox has more viewers than the country has Republicans and by a wide margin.

    Also, the number at CNN have been dropping for most of the last decade.

    Now, given we know the White House HATES fox and LOVES… just LOVES CNN… anyone care to make a guess on the next two election cycles?

  6. wr says:

    Fox has more viewers than the country has republicans? Really? Fox’s big shows pull in something like two or three million viewers. I know the Rs are plummeting, but last I looked it was still about 21% who self-identified with the party.

    On the other hand, given their current performance I’m sure that in a year or two you’ll be right.

  7. Furhead says:

    Do you ever watch CNN? They are bias and opinionated as Hell.

    Compared to who? Name one biased host on CNN and I could name five on either Fox or MSNBC.

  8. steve says:

    “The per -party breakdowns of Fox viewers would seem to defeat this argument out of hand. Simply put fox has more viewers than the country has Republicans and by a wide margin.”

    OReilly has about 2.5 million, Hannity and Beck about 2 million. Everyone else is under 2 million. Are you just adding up the numbers for each individual show and assuming that no one watches more than one show? Very unlikely.

    Interesting poll. Odd that they would include Beck if trying to be politically neutral. I can see how watching Fox, or any news, could make you acquainted with basic names. Would be interesting to see what percentage Dems vs Repubs watch TV news at all.

    Steve

  9. PD Shaw says:

    Based upon the survey results, James could have titled his post: “Men Better Informed than Women.” I triple dog dare you!!

    But do these questions have a male bias? Are men more likely to know who Beck is, either because they listen to him or they listen to someone who attacks him? Or are men generally more knowledgeable about current events? Anyway, if there is a gender bias, it might explain some of the ideological imbalance.

  10. Wayne says:

    Furhead
    Just about everyone if not all on CNN is bias Wolf, Matthews, Cooper, King, etc not to mention being liberal. I can name several liberals on Fox, Geraldo, Colmes , Shepard Smith, Williams, not to mention regular quest like Bob Beckel . Can you name Conservatives on CNN?

  11. just me says:

    Why on earth is “Who is Glenn Beck” a question that was included with all of these others? Why should a democrat (or anyone else who isn’t a line-toeing republican lapdog) give a crap who Glenn Beck is? What does that prove?

    Well it might matter if some people think he is a congress member or somebody who is actually in the leadership of the GOP-of which he is neither.

  12. Michael says:

    I guess we’re using informed rather loosely here. That chart shows what the right wing media is more prone to be enraged about, not necessarily more informed on.

    You hit the nail on the head. This would be better titled “Republicans Better Informed on Fox News Topics”

  13. Furhead says:

    Wayne- Matthews isn’t on CNN (we’re talking Chris, right?) and I’ve never noticed Cooper to reveal any biases, and he’s the one I’ve watched the most. Wolf and King are admittedly idiots and probably flaming liberals.

    On Fox, you’re completely deluded. Colmes and Smith are the only ones that conservatives might even accuse of being liberal, but they’re actually moderates when compared on the American political spectrum. Geraldo and Juan Williams are significantly to the right, although they match the idiocy of Wolf and King. Every single other person on Fox is to the far right, as you know.

    Conservatives on CNN: Oh, I dunno, Ed Rollins, Bill Bennett.

  14. Rick DeMent says:

    Some ill informed yahoo said …

    “The per -party breakdowns of Fox viewers would seem to defeat this argument out of hand. Simply put fox has more viewers than the country has Republicans and by a wide margin.”

    Ah let’s get real here. The worse rated nightly network news programs (ABC, NBC,CBS) pull more viewers then any three shoes on cable combined.

  15. floyd says:

    wr;
    Would you want to live in a country totally dominated by the present day Democrat Party?

  16. Pug says:

    I believe for the first time, maybe ever, a majority of the college educated voted for the Democratic candidate for president in the last election.

    Mary Katherine Hamm can think she’s all smart and stuff, but Republicans have been driving away educated voters, who are presumably better informed than most. It’s a problem for them.

  17. Trumwill says:

    That chart shows what the right wing media is more prone to be enraged about, not necessarily more informed on.

    Cap and Trade is something most Democrats should know about. Regarding Sotomayor, do you think that Democrats would have had a better idea of who Alito was than Republicans when he was nominated? Were Republicans less likely to be aware of the Republican majority in 2005 because Democrats were more revved up? Neither really rings true to me.

    (My perspective is that the Republican’s stronger answers has nothing to do with Fox News and a lot to do with demographics.)

  18. wr says:

    Floyd,

    I’m not sure why you’re asking me this, but as long as the present day Democratic Party includes “moderate” dolts like Blanche Lincoln and Kent Conrad — sleazy whores who represent a handful of voters and sell their votes to the highest bidder, just like a Republican — hell no.

    But until the Republican party comes back to its senses, stops worshipping stupidity, and actually decides to solve some of the country’s problems instead of looking for Communists, Fascists and traitors, the parts of the country worth living in will continue to be dominated by the Democrats. But I’m sure you guys will all be happy down in Mississippi.

  19. anjin-san says:

    anyone care to make a guess on the next two election cycles?

    Given your track record on calling elections, your confidence is pretty much music to the ears of Democrats 🙂

  20. anjin-san says:

    Good point by WR. Giving the strange Bizarro world currently occupied by the GOP, the screaming mediocracy of most Democrats is reasonably attractive.

  21. anjin-san says:

    Democrat Party

    Well Floyd, if you want to sound like an ignorant hick, that’s one way to go about it…

  22. Dustin says:

    Cap and Trade is something most Democrats should know about. Regarding Sotomayor, do you think that Democrats would have had a better idea of who Alito was than Republicans when he was nominated? Were Republicans less likely to be aware of the Republican majority in 2005 because Democrats were more revved up? Neither really rings true to me.

    The Alito question would be a good one to know which side recognized the name more at the time. Your other examples don’t ring the same though. Democrats should know about Cap and Trade, yes, but I don’t recall seeing any repetitive large/loud efforts to support Cap and Trade through the left wing community, certainly not to the degree that the right wing communities and media opposed it, which is rather my point. Much the same, the media narrative when the Republicans controlled the government wasn’t that they were trying to install a new form of government and we must all stand up and stop them, as it is now.

    Your demographics point though is also a fair point and I would believe be likely to play a role as well.

  23. Wayne says:

    Furhead
    If You think Geraldo and Juan Williams are significantly to the right than almost the whole world must be the right to you. No wonder you think CNN is not to the left.

    I got Matthews mix up but then I get CNN and MSNBC mix up at times since they are both liberal stations. Bennett is about like Scarborough, both conservative but have a beef with the GOP since they both been burn by them.

    “Every single other person on Fox is to the far right”

    Please some of the many blonde reporters are liberal. Are you calling Joe Beckel and many of the Democrat strategist, former Clinton administration and prominent liberals as far right?

    How many election night reporters from FOX almost break down in tears from disbelief when Obama got elected? However, I’m sure you thought the CNN lady who did that when Bush was elected was a “moderate”.

  24. Hmm says:

    Interesting points James. I’d be interested to see the poll go more in-depth. IE on the public option questions: ok, both affiliations seem equally up on the fact that this is a health care issue, but who has the more accurate view of what it would actually do? If 59% of both groups know the public option is a healthcare issue but one party says “it’d be sort’ve like Medicare” while the other says “It’s about the government forcing me to kill grandma” then who is actually better informed?

    And isn’t it also true that the GOP has (relatively) more appeal to older folks, who’re (relatively) more politically active in general? I’d be interested to see breakdowns by age. If the responding dems are a bunch of kids and the GOP crowd tilts older I’d have to imagine that’d skew things.

  25. Herb says:

    Dustin makes a great point about the loose interpretation of “informed.” These questions seem like a bad episode of Jaywalking.

    How about asking Republicans if there were WMD in Iraq, if Terri Schiavo would have someday recovered, or if Ronald Reagan freed the Iranian hostages on his inauguration day.

    Then we can ask the liberals whether global warming is scientifically predictable, if fetuses feel pain, or if a strictly vegetarian diet is unhealthy.

    Then we can make some statements about how informed (or misinformed) people really are.

  26. floyd says:

    I can’t think of anything more inane that the statement…
    ” the parts of the country worth living in will continue to be dominated by the Democrats”
    Well, any “educated” person would see through this fuzzy thinking![lol]
    That is unless they were enlighten, educated and made “all smart and stuff” with a diploma just like the Strawman of OZ.

  27. Wayne says:

    Herb
    Are you saying the only people who are informed are those who agree with you?

    Most of the questions you ask are subjective and debatable. Questions like which party is in the majority in Congress are not. Comparing spending between countries is subjective and what is in a bill can be as well although what the main part of bill pertains to is usually agree to.

  28. Grewgills says:

    The results are pretty embarrassing across the board.

  29. Herb says:

    No, Wayne, I’m saying that both sides have their their cherished myths. They can debate them all they want…but there’s not two correct answers.