An Intelligence Institute Study press release that claims Fox News viewers have an IQ 20 points lower than the national average has been turning some heads this week, popping up in a big way on Yahoo News.
One problem: the study is total bullshit.
Here’s some claims from that purported study:
“The results of a 4 year study show that Americans who obtain their news from Fox News channel have an average IQ of 80, which represents a 20 point deficit when compared to the U.S. national average of 100.”
"Lead researcher, P. Nichols, explains, '"Less intelligent animals rely on instinct when confronted by something which they do not understand. This is an ancient survival reaction all animals, including humans, exhibit. It's a very simple phenomenon, really; think about a dog being afraid of a vacuum cleaner. He doesn't know what a vacuum is or if it may harm him, so he becomes agitated and barks at it. Less intelligent humans do the same thing. Concepts that are too complex for them to understand, may frighten or anger them.'”
“P. Nichols concludes that he wasn't shocked by the studies' results, rather how dramatic their range. '"Several previous studies show that self-identified conservatives are less intelligent than self-identified moderates. We have never seen such a homogeneous group teetering so close to special needs levels.”
Even without looking at the supposed source, these results are statistically improbable if not outright impossible to achieve. IQ variance simply does not work that way. Only roughly 16.73% of the population has an I.Q. below 85; finding any sample group with consistently measured intelligence that low would necessitate visiting a special-needs academy.
Keep in mind that the survey is claiming an average age of 80, meaning that if true, the results would suggest nearly 50% of Fox News viewers are borderline deficient and suffer from a mild disability.
The "‘study"’ quoted in the press release does not show up via any academic source, and the “Intelligence Institute” is actually a business consulting enterprise with no apparent links to media studies.
The fake lead researcher quoted in the study, P. Nichols, admitted to the Huffington Post that the press release contained a number of factual errors and outright lies, and alleged the study was in fact deliberately rigged by a moderately conservative Super PAC trying to discredit the Tea Party and other extremely conservative groups. That hasn’t stopped the release from going viral, though.
Other studies on Fox News viewership have reached similar, if not quite as insulting, conclusions. One study conducted by researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University found that “people who only watch Fox News are less informed than all other news consumers.” This headline was widely misconstrued to mean that viewing Fox News made its audience stupider; a follow-up report contested those claims, but still maintained that “Fox News viewers would have done better had they been using almost any other news source, or no news source at all.”
Finally, a survey by analyst Steve Sternberg reached the conclusion that the Fox News has the oldest viewing demographic of any fully distributed cable network, at an average age of 65 years.
This isn’t even a new joke: WIRED outed another fake survey claiming that another much-maligned group (Internet Explorer users) had an average IQ of 80 last year.
While the notion of Fox News viewers as drooling ignoramuses might appeal to leftists, no rejoicing yet. The network’s ratings increased 47% over the past year with an average viewership of 2.6 million, according to a article released at the end of 2011.