Conservatives’ susceptibility to political misperceptions


The idea that U.S. conservatives are uniquely likely to hold misperceptions is widespread but has not been systematically assessed. Research has focused on beliefs about narrow sets of claims never intended to capture the richness of the political information environment. Furthermore, factors contributing to this performance gap remain unclear. We generated an unique longitudinal dataset combining social media engagement data and a 12-wave panel study of Americans’ political knowledge about high-profile news over 6 months. Results confirm that conservatives have lower sensitivity than liberals, performing worse at distinguishing truths and falsehoods. This is partially explained by the fact that the most widely shared falsehoods tend to promote conservative positions, while corresponding truths typically favor liberals. The problem is exacerbated by liberals’ tendency to experience bigger improvements in sensitivity than conservatives as the proportion of partisan news increases. These results underscore the importance of reducing the supply of right-leaning misinformation.

That last sentence is going to cause some fuss.

Reading the paper, I find the statistical methods appropriate and the sample size adequate to make the conclusions credible. There is some dependence on FaceBook data. The data was collected between 20 February and 31 July 2019.


How is truth and falsehood determined? I would imagine the pendulum would swing back and forth over time to which ideology better synthesizes facts. I agree Dan the conclusion is advocating for censorship which is not democracy friendly.

I think that your use of the phrase “synthesizes facts” says it all…


They chose independently verifiable news items. There’s a lot of good detail in the paper and most of it isn’t technical. A supplement gives a list of all items. This is likely to be a hot topic of discussion on many forums, so it worth a read.

Maybe not. Conservatives tend to believe in absolute truths and may be less inclined to question claims. Liberals are more prone to question everything. This is addressed in the paper.

It’s important to note this describes average trends, and doesn’t mean all conservatives are this way. There will be factually aware conservatives and hoodwinked liberals, just not in equal numbers.


Have they characterized the political leanings of those determining “truth”? A lot of these subjects are subjective.

Read the paper, Bill. Your inner skeptic wouldn’t believe me if I told you. :wink:

Keep in mind that political ideology is not fixed to liberal or conservative. In many aspects the Democratic party today is much like the Republican party of 40 years ago - much more conservative… Barry Goldwater, a staunch Republican conservative, wouldn’t recognize todays’ Republican party.


Who the heck does? After a law practice in which I represented what were generally regarded as extreme right-wing causes, I no longer recognize them as a conservative party, either.


Why don’t you look for yourself? Hearsay is not the same as evidence; pretending that subjective hearsay is objective evidence is the fundamental currency of the pseudoscience you embrace.

Do you even realize that you’ve provided two data points consistent with the conclusion of the paper already?


A disconcertingly large fraction of american conservatives are convinced that their government consists of “actively Satan-worshipping pedophiles”. Or that “the globalists” (wink) are trying to install a communist dictatorship(or sharia law) in the US.

Enough said.

I think that within both parties there are extremists. The left and the right. There are hate filled extremists with liberal and conservative world views. I think the main issue is lack of intelligence including common sense, academic and emotional. In general I find this type of argument as useless. It reminds me of racists people using crime statistics as justification for saying African Americans are dangerous. Someone will say oh blah blah is x times more likely to commit a crime when not even 1% of their community will commit crimes. Half the people who know me think I’m a conservative Democrat and the other half thinks I’m a liberal Republican.

To me the loudest and most attention getting politicians since obama left seems to have been getting coverage. There is a lot more to the Conservative party that has been around way before Trump just like there is a lot more to the democrats than Sanders or Biden.



It’s not just an “extremist” element of the Republican party, it is the majority of that party:

It is not just “Trump”, it is Kevin McCarthy and the majority of the Republican House delegation (who voted Liz Cheney out for calling Trump out) and Mitch McConnell and the majority of the Republican Senate delegation (who voted against a Jan 6 commission).

It is the Republican Party.

You are underestimating them in a most disrespectful way. I’m sure they are quite capable of believing that the globalists are trying to install a communist dictatorship and sharia law simultaneously (what a Theocratic Communist Islamist Dictatorship would look like, I don’t know – but I lack their imagination it would seem). :face_with_monocle:


Why don’t you look for yourself? Hearsay is not the same as evidence; pretending that subjective hearsay is objective evidence the fundamental currency of the pseudoscience you love so much.

Do you even realize that you’ve provided two data points consistent with the conclusion of the paper already?

I’m fairly comfortable with Republicans and live in the Bible Belt. Ive yet to hear any one of the hundreds of republicans i engage with quite on often actually believe that the presidency was stolen. Ive not heard of anyone in person yet period who believes the election was stolen. I just see it online. Roughly 40% of america could be called Republican most likely. There is probably around 130,000,000 Republicans and I can’t imagine the majority of them even take polls.

It’s not the usual survey method. From Materials and Methods …

Data collection for the panel was administered by YouGov between 20 February and 31 July 2019. Informed consent was obtained after the nature and possible consequences of the study were explained. The company used a sample matching methodology to construct representative sample ( N = 1204 at baseline). The frame against which the sample was matched was constructed using stratified sampling from the full 2016 American Community Survey 1-year sample with selection within strata by weighted sampling with replacements. Retention between waves of panel ranged from 66.5 to 75.4% ( n varies from 801 to 908), and we allowed participants to return after missing intervening waves. Approximately three-quarters (76.1%) of the sample completed at least half the waves, and almost a third (30.5%) completed all 12.

A sample of 1200 with good retention is enough to make these results credible, IMO. The statistical methods (mixed effect models) are appropriate for this kind of repeated measure data.

That statement suggests to me that you don’t understand polling. Yes polling is imperfect, but I’d rather trust a rigorously conducted poll of “1,004 adults were interviewed by telephone nationwide by live interviewers calling both landline and cell phones” (sampling error for Republican estimate +/- 7.2) than your purely anecdotal people you’ve spoken to “in person”.

Also, as it splits out Republican, Democrat and Independent, the figure is around 25-30%, not 40%. Independent rejection of the election was only 27%.

That might be the wrong sort of criticism, as this wasn’t that kind of survey. This was a panel of ~1200 people, informed and consenting to participate in the study. Still not anecdotal. :slight_smile:

This data was collected before the election, so no questions of election stealing.

Yes, very much so.

They used to say that they were the party of law and order, the party of patriotism. But, looking at them today, they are the party of crooks and traitors.

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I think we are talking at cross-purposes here. My previous post was talking about the CNN-SSRS poll (linked above) that was the basis of theMinnPost report that I linked to previously.

The “anecdotal” was @Skovand’s “Ive not heard of anyone in person yet period who believes the election was stolen.”


Incidentally, what is the right way to criticise claims of the type: ‘the polls must be wrong because nobody I know thinks/says/etc that.’

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In hopes of avoiding heavy-handed moderation, I suggest we try to stay close to the topic of the paper, and not wander off into politics in general.

Since I’m participating here, I’ll call in another mod if a judgement call is needed.