The Truth About “The Truth About Fox News Viewers”

John Lott has penned a op-ed criticizing as “a mess” a recent University of Maryland study which found that Fox News viewers were more likely to be misinformed than those who did not watch the network. However, the op-ed makes its case by misinforming readers on the economic stimulus, health care reform, and climate science.

Lott Ignores Economic Experts, Claims Study Relies On WSJ Survey

Lott Overstates Study's Reliance On WSJ Survey, Claims UMD Exaggerated The Data. From Lott's op-ed:

Question # 1: “Is it your impression that most ECONOMISTS who have studied it estimate that the stimulus legislation caused job losses, saved or created a few jobs, or saved or created several million jobs?” (emphasis is in the original). The claims that the stimulus “saved or created several million jobs,” citing a report from the Democratically controlled Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that said the increase in jobs was at least 2 million. Any other answer give [sic] put the viewer as being “misinformed.”

To back up their claim that “most economists” agreed with this statement, they referenced a March 2010 Wall Street Journal survey: 38 of 54 forecasting economists thought that the stimulus helped. Nonetheless, the University of Maryland researchers -- intentionally or unintentionally -- exaggerated the claim: the average economist in the survey estimated that the stimulus reduced the unemployment rate in February from 10.4 to 9.7 percent, about one million jobs, not “several million jobs.” [, 1/5/11]

UMD Study Clearly Indicates Reliance On Nonpartisan Government Economic Experts. From the study:

On a regular basis government economists come to conclusions about the state of the economy. Such conclusions influence key decisions in the private sphere, as well as government decisions. Such government economists should be, and generally are, open to input from experts outside of government in the course of coming to conclusions.

In the course of this study, to identify “misinformation” among voters, we used as reference points the conclusions of key government agencies that are run by professional experts and have a strong reputation for being immune to partisan influences. These include the Congressional Budget Office, the Department of Commerce, and the National Academy of Sciences. We also noted efforts to survey elite opinion, such as the regular survey of economists conducted by the Wall Street Journal; however, we only used this as supporting evidence for what constitutes expert opinion. [, “Misinformation and the 2010 Election,” 12/10/10, emphasis added]

  • Council Of Economic Advisors: Stimulus Raised Employment By Between 2.5 And 3.6 Million. The most recent report on the stimulus released by CEA at the time of UMD's survey was released in July 2010. From the CEA report:

Another section evaluates the economic impact of the Recovery Act from a number of different perspectives. The key findings are:

  • Following implementation of the ARRA, the trajectory of the economy changed dramatically. Real GDP began to grow steadily starting in the third quarter of 2009 and private payroll employment has increased by nearly 600,000 since its low point in December 2009.
  • The two CEA methods of estimating the impact of the fiscal stimulus suggest that the ARRA has raised the level of GDP as of the second quarter of 2010, relative to what it otherwise would have been, by between 2.7 and 3.2 percent. These estimates are very similar to those of a wide range of other analysts, including the Congressional Budget Office.
  • The CEA estimates that as of the second quarter of 2010, the ARRA has raised employment relative to what it otherwise would have been by between 2.5 and 3.6 million. These estimates are broadly consistent with the direct recipient reporting data available for 2010:Q1 [Council of Economic Advisors, 7/14/10, emphasis original]
  • Congressional Budget Office: The Recovery Act Increased Ranks Of Employed By 1.4 Million To 3.3 Million. According to the report most recently released by the nonpartisan CBO at the time of the UMD survey:

Estimating the law's overall effects on employment requires a more comprehensive analysis than can be achieved by using the recipients' reports. Therefore, looking at recorded spending to date along with estimates of the other effects of ARRA on spending and revenues, CBO has estimated the law's impact on employment and economic output using evidence about the effects of previous similar policies and drawing on various mathematical models that represent the workings of the economy. On that basis, CBO estimates that ARRA's policies had the following effects in the second quarter of calendar year 2010:

  • They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent,
  • Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points,
  • Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million, and
  • Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 2.0 million to 4.8 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise (see Table 1). (Increases in FTE jobs include shifts from part-time to full-time work or overtime and are thus generally larger than increases in the number of employed workers). [CBO, 8/24/10]

Lott Claims 50 Of 68 Economists Surveyed By The National Association For Business Economics Said Stimulus Had “No Beneficial Impact On The Recovery.” From Lott's op-ed:

In addition, they avoided acknowledging that there were other surveys where the majority of economists dramatically disagree. One such survey was by the National Association of Business Economics, with 50 of 68 economists concluding that the stimulus had no beneficial impact on the recovery. [, 1/5/11]

NABE Survey Actually Found 73 Percent “Reported Employment At Their Company Is Not Materially Different.” From the April 26, 2010, survey cited by Lott, produced by the National Association for Business Economics:

Seventy-three percent (73%) of respondents reported employment at their company is not materially different as a result of the federal stimulus bill passed in February 2009. This is consistent with the results in January (when the same question was asked) where the majority (73%) of NABE panelists also reported employment at their firm was neither higher nor lower because of the fiscal stimulus. These findings continue to suggest any stimulative effect has yet to materially impact firms responding to this survey. The TUIC sector reported the least impact and the FIRE sector naturally reported the most positive impact. [National Association for Business Economics, Industry Survey, 4/26/10, emphasis added]

Lott Calls Estimates That Healthcare Reform Will Reduce Deficit “Old, Vastly Optimistic;” CBO Confirmed Estimate The Next Day

January 5: Lott Claims Healthcare Reform Will Increase Federal Deficit. From Lott's op-ed:

“What effect do you think the health reform law will have on the federal budget deficit over the next ten years?” The “correct” answer was that Obamacare would reduce the deficit, and the report cites a March estimate by the CBO that the health care savings would be $124 billion. But this is an old, vastly optimistic left-wing prediction touted by the CBO to get Obamacare passed. Even the Obama administration now admits that their plan will add to the deficit. The CBO itself now acknowledges that they double-counted projected Medicare spending cuts. Correcting that error adds $89 billion to the health care costs over the decade. Another CBO error also underestimated discretionary spending in the new health care law by $60 billion. These errors by themselves, not even counting other problems, flips the math around and shows that Obamacare will increase the deficit. [, 1/5/11]

January 6: CBO Says Repealing Health Care Reform Would Add “Roughly $145 Billion” To Deficit From 2012 To 2019. From a January 6 CBO memo written in response to House Majority Leader John Boehner's request for a review of legislation that would repeal the health care reform legislation passed in March 2010:

Impact on the Federal Budget in the First Decade

As a result of changes in direct spending and revenues, CBO expects that enacting H.R. 2 would probably increase federal budget deficits over the 2012-2019 period by a total of roughly $145 billion, plus or minus the effects of technical and economic changes that CBO and JCT will include in the forthcoming estimate. That figure consists of the following two components:

  • About $130 billion, representing the net reduction in deficits over the 2012-2019 period expected to result from the health care provisions of the enacted legislation (as estimated by CBO and JCT last March), plus
  • About $15 billion, representing the reduction brought about by the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010 in the estimated cost of subsidies to be provided through the insurance exchanges through 2019. [CBO, 1/6/11; in-text citation deleted for clarity]

Lott Claims There Is “Little Unanimity” Among Scientists On Issue Of Man-Made Global Warming

Lott Cites Survey Of Weather Forecasters And Bogus Petition To Claim “There Is Little Unanimity” Among Scientists On Global Warming. From Lott's op-ed:

Question #4: “Do you think that MOST SCIENTISTS believe that climate change is occurring, not occurring, or views are evenly divided?” (emphasis in the original). Of course, the answer wants was that most scientists believe that climate change is occurring. Again, the question is poorly worded. In particular, it fails to specify what time period is relevant. Have temperatures risen since the end of The Little Ice Age in 1850? Surely, no one disagrees with that. Have temperatures changed much since 1998? Few scientists would claim so. Judging from the's report, the authors are clearly pushing the man-made global warming viewpoint. But on that score, there is little unanimity. For example, a 2010 survey of American weather forecasters found only 17 percent to believe in man-made global warming. And, as for scientists in general, 9,029 Ph.D.s signed a petition this year disputing man-made global warming claims. [, 1/5/11]

Diverse Collection Of Scientific Organizations Have Issued Statements Confirming That Climate Change Is Real And Man-Made.

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.” [...] “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica).” [IPCC, 11/17/07]
  • American Meteorological Society: “Despite the uncertainties noted above, there is adequate evidence from observations and interpretations of climate simulations to conclude that the atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; that humans have significantly contributed to this change; and that further climate change will continue to have important impacts on human societies, on economies, on ecosystems, and on wildlife through the 21st century and beyond.” [AMS Statement on Climate Change, 2/1/07]
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science: “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” [AAAS Board Statement on Climate Change, 2/18/07]
  • Union of Concerned Scientists: “Global warming is well underway and will have wide-ranging consequences for our health and well-being. The primary cause of global warming is from human activity, most significantly burning of fossil fuels to drive cars, generate electricity, and operate our homes and businesses.” [Union of Concerned Scientists, 6/1/09]
  • National science academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States: “However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001).” [Joint science academies' statement: Global response to climate change, 6/7/05; in-text citations deleted for clarity]

Union Of Concerned Scientists: Petition A “Deceptive Campaign,” Corresponding Article Not Peer Reviewed Or Published. Discussing the petition to which Lott refers, the website of the Union of Concerned Scientists reports:

The Marshall Institute co-sponsored with the OISM a deceptive campaign -- known as the Petition Project -- to undermine and discredit the scientific authority of the IPCC and to oppose the Kyoto Protocol. Early in the spring of 1998, thousands of scientists around the country received a mass mailing urging them to sign a petition calling on the government to reject the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was accompanied by other pieces including an article formatted to mimic the journal of the National Academy of Sciences. Subsequent research revealed that the article had not been peer-reviewed, nor published, nor even accepted for publication in that journal and the Academy released a strong statement disclaiming any connection to this effort and reaffirming the reality of climate change. The Petition resurfaced in 2001. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 10/20/05; emphasis original]

Only 39 Of The Supposed 31,487 Signatories Claim A Background In Climatology; More Than 13,000 Have Degrees in Medicine Or Engineering. From the Global Warming Petition Project:

The following outline gives a more detailed analysis of the signers' educations.

Atmosphere, Earth, & Environment (3,805)

1. Atmosphere (579)

I) Atmospheric Science (112)

II) Climatology (39)

III) Meteorology (343)

IV) Astronomy (59)

V) Astrophysics (26)


Medicine (3,046)

1. Medical Science (719)

2. Medicine (2,327)

General Engineering & General Science (10,102)

1. General Engineering (9,833)

I) Engineering (7,280)

II) Electrical Engineering (2,169)

III) Metallurgy (384)

2. General Science (269)

[Petition Project, accessed 1/7/10]

Energy Boom Editor: Survey “An Unverifiable Mess,” Signatories Not Verifiable Or Qualified. editor Kevin Grandia wrote in the Huffington Post:

An Unverifiable Mess

Time and time again, I have had emails from researchers who have taken random samples of names from the list and Google searched them for more information. I urge others to do the same. What you'll quickly find is either no information, very little information or information substantiating the fact that the vast majority of signers are completely unqualified in the area of climate change science.

For example,

“Munawwar M. Akhtar” - no info other than the fact that he is a signatory on the petition.

“Fred A. Allehoff” - no info other than the fact that he is a signatory on the petition.


And this is only names I picked in the “A's.” I could go on, but you get my point. The list is very difficult to verify as a third-party, but this hasn't stopped the Petition from bouncing around the internet and showing up in mainstream media. [The Huffington Post, 7/22/09]

Lott Falsely Claims UMD Study Ignored GOP Split On TARP

Lott: UMD Researchers Ignore That Congressional Republicans Were “Literally Split” On TARP. From Lott's op-ed:

And then there are problems with their question about the TARP financial bailout, where the researchers ask about whether most Congressional Republicans supported it. But they can't even add up the total votes in the House or Senate on the bill which shows that Republicans were literally split 50-50, while 75 percent of Democrats supported it. On their own, House Republicans would never have supported the bill. [, 1/5/11]

UMD Study: When Surveyed About TARP, “31% Thought Correctly That Republicans Were Divided.” From the study:

Respondents were asked: “When Congress voted on the bailout for banks and financial institutions in 2008, please select how you think the Democrats and Republicans voted: [each] mostly favored it, mostly opposed it, or were divided.” Sixty percent of voters were aware that Democrats had mostly favored TARP (opposed it, 9%; were divided, 26%). Regarding Republican congressional support, 31% thought correctly that Republicans were divided; 31% thought they mostly favored it; and 33% thought they mostly opposed it. [, “Misinformation and the 2010 Election,” 12/10/10, emphasis added]