The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has released a new report Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions: What Americans Know: 1989-2007. In this report, statistics show that knowledge of current events and names of public officials is no better now than in 1989, despite the fact there are now many more 24-hour news sources. You can look at the figures and say that knowledge has fallen, though the commentators we heard on National Public Radio today cautioned against making that judgement.
What Bonnie and I found interesting were the scores according to what news sources people cited as their regular sources. Viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report tied with readers of major newspapers for the highest percentage in the highest knowledge category. Users of online news services are down the line. Viewers of Fox News are nearly at the bottom of the list, beating only viewers of morning television shows.
I expect there will be more analysis of these finding in the next few days.