Those who rely on Fox News are more inclined to believe rumours, a study looking at the behavioral patterns of viewers of reports pertaining to the Ground Zero mosque in has concluded.
According to the study, a typical viewer who reported a low reliance on Fox News believed 0.9 rumors on average, while a similar respondent with a high reliance on Fox believed 1.5 rumors – an increase of 66 percent. On the contrary, people who relied heavily on CNN or NPR believed fewer false rumors. High reliance on CNN reduced the number of rumors believed by 23 percent, while heavy use of NPR reduced belief by 25 percent.

Researchers from the Ohio State University found that those who believe false rumors about the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York City not quite likely to oppose that project. They surveyed 750 Americans based on four rumours listed as false by, run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, or PolitiFact, the Pulitzer-prize winning service of the St. Petersburg Times.

The researchers found that among those who believed none of the four rumors, two-thirds were opposed to the proposed project. But this percentage increased to 82 percent for those who believed three or more rumors.

The two researchers – Eric Nesbit and R Kelly Grant – wanted to do the study since it fit with both of their research agendas: Nisbet is interested in public opinion and American-Islamic relations, and Garrett is interested in the role of rumors in political communication. They focused on how differences in exposure and belief in rumors and support for the proposed were associated with media use.
The results showed how reliance on specific media sources played a strong role in whether people were exposed to the rumors and if they believed them.

Those who relied on broadcast television news – ABC, CBS or NBC – were less likely to have been exposed to the rumors. There was a 22 percent decrease in rumor exposure compared to those with low reliance on those outlets.

The best way to get accurate information about the proposed Islamic cultural center, in fact, were newspapers. Those who relied heavily on newspapers for their news (either print or online) increased their exposure to rebuttals by 67 percent when compared to others.
“This is one of the unique contributions of newspapers in the media landscape,” Nisbet said. “When you consider that newspaper readers are more likely to be exposed to rebuttals of false information compared to other media outlets, it is worrying that newspapers in general have been struggling. It is something we should be concerned about.”

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