Over the weekend, a study that claimed Fox News viewers have low IQs went viral. But it turns out that the study was a big fake.
A press release about the study was posted on the website PRWeb, which distributes news releases online, and was then reposted by Yahoo News, and picked up by liberal sites like Daily Kos and Current.
The release said that a group called the “Intelligence Institute,” a “conservative non-profit group,” did a study finding that “Fox News viewers have an IQ that is 20 points lower than the U.S. National average.” The release claims that the study was conducted over four years, tested 5,000 people, and found that Fox News viewers have an IQ of 80, compared with the national average of 100.
The release also included sensationalistic quotes from lead researcher “P. Nichols” about the findings, such as, “We have never seen such a homogeneous group teetering so close to special needs levels.”
Michael Giltz from Huffington Post debunked the study last night, speaking with Nichols, who would not give his first name, the name of the Republican PAC he claims backed the study, or the names of anyone else involved with it. He essentially copped to it all being a hoax.
For one thing, Nichols admitted to inventing the Intelligence Institute with his team for the purpose of legitimizing the study. Additionally, Nichols was not actually the “lead researcher,” as the press release claims. He said he would describe himself more as ”publicity” or “maybe project manager?”
Glitz writes that Nichols said he catered the results to the outcome the PAC wanted: making it OK to be a moderate Republican again.
“They told me what they wanted to do and I said I could do it,” he claimed. Nichols said the moderate Republicans behind the PAC supporting this effort wanted to counter the effect of the Tea Party and encourage moderates to come forward. Making people embarrassed to say they watched FOX News (or better yet not watch FOX News at all) might help that goal. So the 5000 people who took part in the study were chosen by Nichols and non-scientists, essentially selected to guarantee the results they were looking for. “We stuck to the rural South,” said Nichols, who admitted they had a hard time finding conservatives in Alabama and other states who didn’t watch FOX News but dug them up to give the study some balance.
“It’s making a social commentary,” Nichols told Glitz. “Facts are obsolete. And numbers aren’t as objective as they should be.”