A great many of those bullet points are contentious; consequently, what the study really proved was that Fox News viewers were less inclined to defer to the received narrative and expert consensus when that narrative conflicts with their views. Sometimes this led them to an intelligent position, as with Obamacare and the deficit, sometimes it led them to nonsense (“He’s a Kenyan!”). Many Fox News viewers, and most of the hosts, see themselves as a sort of political insurgency; that’s part of a neat little trick Fox News does: It’s the largest cable-news network, but it convincingly presents itself as the scrappy opposition, the lone voice in the wilderness. It is also an opinion-driven operation rather than a news-driven operation. It is at least as likely that people who hold certain opinions — not all of them necessarily well grounded in fact — are drawn to Fox News as it is that people without such opinions turn on the television and get infected by them. Most of the questions in the study involved information used to cast the Obama administration in a bad light, rightly or wrongly: that taxes were up, the economy was stagnant, Obamacare was inflating deficits, etc. Change that dynamic and you’ll almost certainly change the findings.
Example: MSNBC viewers were most likely to believe untruths most often when those untruths supported liberal views, specifically about the Chamber of Commerce’s role in the 2010 midterm election. That was the sole question inquiring about misinformation that might have been used to hurt Republicans rather than Democrats. The least likely to believe that misinformation? Fox News viewers, of course.
What is notable (though not entirely surprising) is that misinformation was utterly common: More than a third of MSNBC viewers, for example, believed that the stimulus package contained no tax cuts, and a third of them believed what Fox News viewers believed about the auto bailouts. As the authors of the study note — and as the clowns at Alternet do not — “this suggests that misinformation cannot simply be attributed to news sources, but are [sic] part of the larger information environment that includes statements by candidates, political ads, and so on.” As Professor Caplan points out, voters have a strong bias toward pessimism in economic matters. And confirmation bias is as common as dirt.