Daily Show's 'unsophisticated audience'? Studies say no

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One of the funniest things I’ve heard lately was a comment by FoxNews’ Bernard Goldberg. He and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart have been waging a war lately, and after a recent Stewart pounding of Fox’s ongoing anti-liberal bias, Goldberg lashed out. He told Stewart, via an appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s TV joyfest, that if Stewart wants to be “more than a comedian  ... you better find some guts." Then, Goldberg let loose his inadvertent joke of the day, calling Stewart’s viewers “your incredibly unsophisticated audience.” Coming from a commentator on any other news network, it would have just been an insult; from a Fox talking head, though, it’s hilarious.

Now, you’ve no doubt talked to people who rely almost exclusively on Fox News for their knowledge of what’s going on in the world. Kinda scary, isn’t it? The mistaken or out-of-context information, the paranoid beliefs, the inability to hear new information that could contradict what they’ve heard from Glenn Beck. And, of course, there's the stubborn, willful ignorance that turns discussions into surreal trips to conservative wonderland. I guess these are the people Bernard Goldberg would rather have listening to him, rather than Jon Stewart’s “incredibly unsophisticated audience.”

There’s no need to argue about the relative knowledge or sophistication of Daily Show and Fox News audiences — the research has already been published. One famous study from 2003 studied the public’s belief in three false claims — that Iraq possessed WMDs, that Iraq was involved in 9/11, and that there was international support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The study showed that Fox viewers were “three times more likely than [viewers of] the next nearest network to hold all three misperceptions.”

Then in an extensive 2007 Pew Research study of Americans’ knowledge of national and international affairs, researchers found that “viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have the highest knowledge, while Fox News viewers rank nearly dead last.” The study is worth checking out for its wide-ranging look at what Americans know and how they get their information. The one thing you won’t find is any support for Bernard Goldberg’s opinion of Stewart’s audience.

Stewart answered Goldberg's criticisms, by the way, and here's a video of his FoxNews smackdown.

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