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Have I Got News For You viewers best informed in UK

I have no evidence for this headline, but it is probably true. Why? Because the people who watch Paul Merton, Ian Hislop et al are more likely to be news junkies than the rest of the population.

I base my assertion on the latest Pew Research report on What Americans Know which shows that the best informed people there are viewers of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show.

Dig down into the research and we find that 16% of the sample watch the Daily Show. The chances are that these same people are among the 55% who read a daily newspaper and the 46% who watch network news. Without the raw data there is no way of cross-checking.

The Pew survey also shows that the 43% who said they watched Fox News were almost the worst informed. Perhaps that is their main source of national and international news.

It is all too easy draw misleading conclusions from survey research: it can prove some great headlines.

It is not surprising that 93 percent could identify Arnold Schwarzenegger when movie star and governor of California were both counted as correct. Where have the other 7% been?

What is really worrying is that only 65% could identify Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. But for a politician it is good to be a percentage point ahead of Beyonce.

The Pew Survey which has been running since 1989 has its real value in comparisons. Those suggest, perhaps, a disengagement from news. The number who could name the vice president was down 5% to 69% since’89, state governor recognition fell even further, and those able to name the president of Russia fell from 47% to 36%.

On the other hand more people were able to correctly answer questions about national politics. But the most worrying finding is that “despite the fact that education levels have risen dramatically over the past 20 years, public knowledge has not increased accordingly”.


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