Read time: 4 minutes

Information, Misinformation, And 'Stupid' Voters

Bill Maher thinks people are stupid, but a recent study indicates another problem.
Views:

This panel discussion on Bill Maher's show Friday night is illuminating. While I think Maher is right about people being stupid about certain things, I was put off by his superior attitude, mostly because I know the kind of effort that goes into making sure people are misinformed.

There's a difference, after all. Just look at Mo Brooks' performance last Friday night on Chris Hayes' show for a perfect example. All he had to do was drop Bill Clinton's name in place of Ronald Reagan's a couple of times, and I guarantee you that message landed on a few casual viewers.

It won't be long until they use that ruse on Fox News, and your crazy uncle sits down for Thanksgiving dinner grousing about the damn Democrats giving amnesty to someone, because in his mind Saint Ronnie couldn't have done it.

Your crazy uncle isn't stupid. He's misinformed.

Washington Monthly has an interesting column on some research in this area:

Media Matters recently produced a report showing that both cable and network news reporting on Ebola spiked in the days leading up to the 2014 midterms and then simply went to almost nothing afterwards. I don’t buy the idea that this was some collusion between the media and Republicans. I suspect it had more to do with the way that fear of the disease spreading grabbed everyone’s attention, and then a total elimination of coverage once it was clear that wasn’t going to happen (at least not in this country). In other words, success at containing the spread of Ebola doesn’t produce eyeballs.

Circling back to the subject of Obamacare, its interesting to note the effect all this has on the perceptions of the public.

Jon Krosnick, Wendy Gross, and colleagues at Stanford and Kaiser ran large surveys to measure public understanding of the ACA and how it was associated with approval of the law. They found that accurate knowledge about what’s in the bill varied with party identification: Democrats understood the most and liked the law the most, independents less, and Republicans understood still less and liked the law the least. However, attitudes were not just tribal. Within each party, the more accurate your knowledge of the law, the more you liked it.


↓ Story continues below ↓

These researchers found that in the unlikely event that the public had a perfect understanding of the law, approval of it would go from 32% to 70%. That’s the price we pay for an uninformed public.

There is no entity more responsible for misinformation than our so-called mainstream media. Either they dumb it down, or they're too lazy to understand it themselves.

Another example. CBS' 60 Minutes aired a report on our crumbling infrastructure on Sunday, but failed to mention anywhere in that report that Republicans have blocked all infrastructure spending for six straight years. The President's stimulus bill was the last act of Congress -- a Democratic congress who passed it with no Republican votes, by the way -- that had any provision for serious infrastructure spending in it.

The President stood in front of crumbling bridges and gave speeches. He went all over the country trying to get some support for infrastructure spending because it's so good for the economy.

Yet CBS couldn't be bothered to include that in their report because why?

BOTH SIDES, of course! Check this:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer: It has, to this point, not raised to the level of priority for the Republican leadership. Although, in fairness, when the Democrats were in charge we had a few hearings, but not much action.

Steve Kroft: So you see this as a bipartisan failure.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer: Absolutely. The Bush administration, they had two blue ribbon commissions about infrastructure finance that recommended a lot more money, and additionally the gas tax being increased. We couldn't get them to accept being able to move forward. Since President Obama's been in office, there has been, to be charitable, a lack of enthusiasm for raising the gas tax.

No, Rep. Blumenauer. It's not both damn sides and it's not about the gas tax, for crying out loud. That's not the only way to fund infrastructure nor should it be when airports, dams and ports are also aging and in need of improvement.

Geez, someone please shoot their TV the next time someone uses "both sides" as an excuse.

CBS News just misinformed their viewers on this. So for the record, let's just review the last six years, shall we?

2013: Republican obstruction on infrastructure spending is economic sabotage

2012: Republicans block infrastructure spending for political points

2011: Republicans' unprecedented obstruction on everything

2011: Republicans block American Jobs Act

2011: Republicans dither over debt default while infrastructure crumbles

2011: A year after San Bruno spontaneously combusted, infrastructure spending still behind

2010: Chris Christie kills major infrastructure project in New Jersey

2010: San Bruno explodes because gas lines needed repair.

2010: We need infrastructure funding for a second stimulus. But Republicans said no.

2008: Will Republicans block infrastructure funding? (Yes, they did)

Shall I go on, or do we get the point? Until these "mainstream news" sources stop playing the 'both sides' game and start actually disseminating real, fact-based information to viewers, we will have a misinformed electorate.

Not stupid, but desperately and horribly misinformed.

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.