Pew Research did a survey to test the audiences of various media outlets in order to determine how well each informs their listeners or viewers — and came up with some surprising results.  They asked three questions based on current events, and then ranked the outlets by the percentage of their audience who got each right, and all three correct.  A few surprises hit the top of the market (via Mark Impomeni):

When the Pew Research Center tested the public’s political knowledge earlier this year, the best-informed news audiences crossed the ideological spectrum. Nearly half of regular readers of The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper’s Magazine (48%) answered three political knowledge questions correctly. Regular listeners of NPR (44% three correct), and regular viewers of Hardball (43%) and Hannity & Colmes (42%) also fared well compared with other news audiences.

The survey, conducted April 30-June 1 among 3,612 adults ages 18 and over, found that about half of Americans (53%) knew that the Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives, while 42% could identify the secretary of state (Condoleezza Rice). Fewer than three-in-ten (28%) could name the prime minister of Great Britain (Gordon Brown). Just 18% of the public answered all three questions correctly.

This follows on John Ziegler’s work at How Obama Got Elected, although in a less partisan manner.  Ziegler also conducted his surveys of Obama and McCain voters to demonstrate the fecklessness of media coverage, a theme he put together as a documentary in Media Malpractice. Pew essentially finds the same problem working from the other direction — most of the mainstream media outlets fail to inform their audiences properly for political discourse.

Here is the top ten, as an example, with their aggregate scores:

  1. New Yorker/Atlantic – 48%
  2. NPR – 44%
  3. Hardball – 43%
  4. Hannity & Colmes – 42%
  5. Political magazines – 39%
  6. Rush Limbaugh – 36%
  7. Business magazines – 36%
  8. BBC – 34%
  9. Colbert Report – 34%
  10. News Hour (PBS) – 33%

Hannity and Rush were the only two outlets where over 80% of the audience could correctly identify the majority party in the House.  Only a handful of others scored in the 70s.  How did we do?  Not too bad.  “Online news” ranked 14th, with an aggregate score of 29%.

And where were the rest of the American media?  In rather poor positions.  In fact, ESPN — a sports network — outranked almost all of them:

  • MS-NBC: 19th (25%)
  • ESPN: 23rd (21%)
  • NBC Evening News: 24th (21%)
  • ABC News: 27th (19%)
  • CNN: 28th (19%)
  • Fox: 29th (19%)
  • CBS News: 38th (10%)

Of all the listed news outlets above, only CBS failed to inform their audience well enough to get a majority that knew Democrats controlled the House.  That’s really pathetic.