Bill O'Reilly asserted that "[m]any Americans ages 18 to 24 have no idea what's going on," stating that they "get their news from [Comedy Central host] Jon Stewart and their point of view from bomb-throwing entertainers." In fact, studies have shown that viewers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are consistently better informed about current events than consumers of other media, and Daily Show viewers are significantly better educated than viewers of The O'Reilly Factor. Further, consumers of Fox News in general have been found to be significantly more misinformed about current events than consumers of other mainstream media.
During the May 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly asserted that "[m]any Americans ages 18 to 24 have no idea what's going on," stating that they "get their news from [Comedy Central host] Jon Stewart and their point of view from bomb-throwing entertainers." In fact, studies have shown that viewers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are consistently better informed about current events than consumers of other media, and Daily Show viewers are considerably better educated than viewers of The O'Reilly Factor. Further, consumers of Fox News in general have been found to be significantly more misinformed about current events than consumers of other mainstream media.
In 2004, the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center released its National Annenberg Election Survey, which found Daily Show viewers to be better informed on campaign issues than consumers of other late-night television programs, newspapers, network news, or cable news. In a press release, Annenberg senior analyst Dannagal Goldthwaite Young said: "Daily Show viewers have higher campaign knowledge than national news viewers and newspaper readers -- even when education, party identification, following politics, watching cable news, receiving campaign information online, age, and gender are taken into consideration."
The survey asked respondents to answer a six-question quiz designed to measure "political knowledge." Daily Show viewers ages 18 to 29 scored higher than those who consumed any amount of network news, any amount of newspapers, or one to three days of cable news; young Daily Show viewers scored the same as young viewers who watched four or more days of cable news. The survey did not say what percentage of Daily Show viewers regularly consumed news from other media outlets. Overall, Daily Show viewers scored the highest out of any group surveyed, with Daily Show viewers answering, on average, 60 percent of the questions correctly.
Also, according to CNN, Nielsen Media Research statistics show that when directly compared with O'Reilly Factor viewers, "Stewart's viewers are not only smart, but more educated than O'Reilly's.":
"Daily Show" viewers are 78 percent more likely than the average adult to have four or more years of college education, while O'Reilly's audience is only 24 percent more likely to have that much schooling.
Additionally, an October 2003 study conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy (PIPA) found Fox News viewers were "significantly more likely to have misperceptions" about the Iraq war than all other media consumers. The study was "based on a series of seven US polls conducted from January through September" 2003 and measured respondents' "key perceptions and beliefs" on "US policy" in Iraq. The study found that "[t]hose who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions." For instance, of the "three key misperceptions" -- which the study listed as "the beliefs that ... links between Iraq and al-Qaeda have been found, that WMD have been found in Iraq and that world public opinion approved of the US going to war with Iraq" -- Fox News watchers were found not only to be the "most likely to hold misperceptions," but "were more than twice as likely than the next nearest network to hold all three misperceptions." The PIPA study found that 80 percent of Fox News viewers held at least one of the three misperceptions.
As CNN noted, during Stewart's appearance on the September 17, 2004, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly told Stewart that his Daily Show viewers were "stoned slackers" and "dopey kids," and declared it was "really frightening" that Stewart actually had "an influence on this presidential election."
From the May 23 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: I'm Bill O'Reilly, thanks for watching us tonight. Pop culture and politics, that's the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo." "Who cares about the Dixie Chicks?" Ruth Wilson, who lives in Virginia Beach, emailed me, and so did many other Factor viewers and listeners.
And the answer is, the left-wing ladies do reach some younger Americans. And the media eagerly embraces what they and other committed lefty entertainers have to say. But you won't be hearing too much about Ted Nugent's opinions. Now, there's a growing problem in America with the younger people being completely uninformed. Public education is generally not emphasizing history, geography, or civics, preferring to indoctrinate American students into a world of tolerance, diversity, and secular values. Plus, every survey says the same thing. Many Americans ages 18 to 24 have no idea what's going on.
For example, a National Geographic survey says 63 percent of that age group can't locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East even though the USA has been fighting there for more than three years.
That may be because 80 percent of younger Americans don't even own a world map. Ninety percent of the young'uns don't know where Afghanistan is. Ninety percent. And here's the best. Twenty-five percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 could not identify Dick Cheney as vice president.
Now, many of these young Americans vote, and they are influenced by celebrities and the press that fawns over them. In some young precincts, it is hip to be dumb, cool to be uninformed. In fact, you're a geek if you know a lot about current events.
Thus, we have millions of Americans who get their news from Jon Stewart and their point of view from bomb-throwing entertainers. This isn't new. When I was a sophomore at Marist College, drugs on campus were rare. As a junior, I went abroad, studied in London. And then when I came back to Marist as a senior, drugs were all over the place, along with pictures of pop stars who ingested them, people like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, both of whom died young. Drugs had become acceptable because the pop media endorsed them.
So popular culture does matter, it does have influence. Even on life-death issues such as the war on terror and how to wage it. Our republic demands citizens pay attention in order for the best people to be elected. Is that happening today, when 64 percent of young Americans can name the American Idol winners but just 10 percent know who the speaker of the House is?
We may be heading for big trouble in this country. In fact, we might already be there. And that's the "Memo."