(RNS) Fox News watchers are more likely than other Americans to believe dubious claims about the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero, according to a new study.
“The results are very clear: the more people use Fox News, the more rumors they have heard and believe,” said researchers at Ohio State University’s School of Communications in a nine-page report released Thursday (Oct. 14).
“Exposure to the news network promotes rumor contact and belief.”
Fox News did not respond to requests for comment.
The report found that people who followed CNN or NPR believed fewer of the rumors, while newspapers were the greatest source of accurate information about the planned Islamic community center, known as Park51.
Authored by professors Erik Nisbet and Kelly Garrett, the study asked 750 Americans about their news consumption and views on four Park 51 rumors:
— Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim leader behind Park51, is a terrorist sympathizer who refuses to condemn attacks on civilians.
— Muslim groups building the proposed center are tied to radical anti-American and anti-Semitic organizations.
— The proposed center is scheduled to open on September 11, 2011 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
— The money for the proposed center is coming primarily from foreign financial backers associated with terrorist organizations in Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Respondents who rarely watched Fox News reported hearing 1.4 of those rumors; respondents who relied more on Fox reported hearing 1.9 of the rumors, an increase of 35 percent.
Moreover, regular Fox viewers believed 1.5 percent of the rumors, a 66 percent increase from other Americans, the study found.
The greater the belief in these rumors, the higher the likelihood that survey respondents opposed the Park 51 proposal, according to the study.
Especially “disturbing,” Nisbet said, was the report’s finding that people who believed the rumors were more likely to oppose not only the Park 51 project, but also the building of mosques generally.
Among those who did not believe any of the rumors, 66 percent still opposed the Park 51 project, and 39 percent opposed mosques in their own neighborhoods.
The study found that conservative talk radio was the one media source that was less reliable on Park 51 information than Fox News.