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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 12:33 PM ET, 02/24/2012

O’Reilly sees an uninformed electorate

Bill O’Reilly got high-minded in last night’s edition of the “O’Reilly Factor.” President Obama’s abysmal leadership on gas prices, suggested the host, stems from an apathetic public.

Unfortunately, most of the voters — four and a half million watched this debate last night. That’s all. That’s all that watched it. More people watched the dopey Kardashians than watched this stuff. They don’t know . . . I think this is one of — the most uninformed electorate in the last 100 years.

Boy, do we have a crisis on our hands.

Wait, maybe we don’t: Behold the chart below, which comes from the Ann Arbor-based American National Election Studies. The numbers here lack O’Reilly’s ambition — they look at the past 60 years, not the full 100 years in O’Reilly’s data set. But the trend could not be more plain. We voters are getting more educated with each four-year cycle.

If O’Reilly’s right, we may well have the most sophisticated uninformed electorate in the last 100 years. And if he’s wrong, we’ll just have to hope that Fox viewers will know enough to disregard the host’s uninformed rantings about an uninformed electorate. Previous studies have suggested, though, that they’ll swallow it whole.

Waiting for a comment from O’Reilly on what data he used for his contention.

UPDATE: Just heard from Gary Segura, a political science professor at Stanford University and one of three “principal investigators” for the 2012 American National Election Study. Given that position, Segura is a careful and methodical soul, a guy who’ll never overstate data. When I presented O’Reilly’s claim to him, he gave this response: “So we would have to believe that going from 6 percent [1952] to over a quarter of the electorate [2008] having a college or post-graduate degree while simultaneously having the least amount of information strikes me as implausible.”

By  |  12:33 PM ET, 02/24/2012

Tags:  fox news, bill o'reilly, president obama, gas prices

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