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OSU study suggests misinformation and Fox News are linked

By Doug Published: October 14, 2010

An Ohio State University study by two communications professors found that persons who were more likely to believe false information about a proposed mosque near Ground Zero were also more likely to oppose a mosque in their own neighborhood and also were more likely to frequent the Fox News channel or Web site.

The purpose of the study, they said, was "to focus on how differences in exposure and belief in rumors and support for the proposed New York mosque were associated with media use." The research was funded by the OSU School of Communication.

Assistant communications professors Erik Nisbet and Kelly Garrett said four particular rumors about the New York mosque "were chosen because they were all listed as false by FactCheck.org, run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, or PolitiFact, the Pulitzer-prize winning service of the St. Petersburg Times," according to an OSU explanation of the research project.

For example, one false rumor was that the new mosque was slated to open on Sept. 11, 2011, for the 10-year anniversary of the attack.

People who said they relied heavily on Fox News, either online or on television, were more aware of the false rumors about the mosque and were more likely to believe these rumors compared to those with low reliance on Fox.

The study showed that those who relied most on CNN, NPR and newspapers scored significantly higher, with newspaper readers among the best informed.

People who said they relied heavily on newspapers for their news (either print or online) increased their exposure to rebuttals by 67 percent when compared to people who relied little on papers. These rebuttals were shown to strongly promote accurate knowledge about the rumors.

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