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New study confirms how media choices shape viewers perspectives

One of the things that makes Fox News and Fox Business effective indoctrination tools for the MAGA far right is the fact that so many of their gullible viewers don’t consume non-MAGA media outlets and live in a far-right bubble. So, when Fox News’ Tucker Carlson says something ridiculous — such as claiming that that COVID-19 vaccines make one more likely to get COVID-19 or praising Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the January 6 insurrectionists — they don’t question what they’re hearing.

But according to researchers David E. Brockman and Joshua L. Kalla, Fox News viewers developed better critical thinking skills when exposed to CNN.

Brockman and Kalla, journalist Sravasti Dasgupta reports in The Independent, conducted an experiment in September 2020 and published the results in late March. The researchers explained, “Of 763 qualifying participants, we then randomized 40 percent to treatment group. To change the slant of their media diet, we offered treatment group participants $15 per hour to watch seven hours of CNN per week, during September 2020, prioritizing the hours at which participants indicated they typically watched Fox News…. Despite regular Fox viewers being largely strong partisans, we found manifold effects of changing the slant of their media diets on their factual beliefs, attitudes, perceptions of issues’ importance, and overall political views.”

According to Dasgupta, the experiment, “found changes in attitudes and policy preferences about COVID-19, evaluations of then-President Donald Trump and Republican candidates as well as elected officials.” The researchers also “found that participants became more likely to agree that if Donald Trump made a mistake, Fox News would not cover it.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has killed more than 6.1 million people worldwide — including over 982,000 people in the United States. Hopkins data shows how deadly the pandemic has been. Yet Fox News and Fox Business, compared to CNN and MSNBC, repeatedly downplayed the pandemic’s severity in 2020.

The Brockman/Kalla experiment, Dasgupta notes, “found that Fox News gave viewers information about why the disease is not a serious threat, while CNN provided a lot more information about the disease itself.”

Brockman and Kalla said of their project, “We found large effects of watching CNN instead of Fox News on participants’ factual perceptions of current events — i.e., beliefs — and knowledge about the 2020 presidential candidates’ positions. They discovered changes in attitudes about Donald Trump and Republicans as well as a large effect on their opinions about COVID.”

Printed with permission from Alternet.

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