Fake news

Kevin Lewis

March 08, 2019

It depends: Partisan evaluation of conditional probability importance
Leaf Van Boven et al.
Cognition, forthcoming


Policies to suppress rare events such as terrorism often restrict co-occurring categories such as Muslim immigration. Evaluating restrictive policies requires clear thinking about conditional probabilities. For example, terrorism is extremely rare. So even if most terrorist immigrants are Muslim — a high “hit rate” — the inverse conditional probability of Muslim immigrants being terrorists is extremely low. Yet the inverse conditional probability is more relevant to evaluating restrictive policies such as the threat of terrorism if Muslim immigration were restricted. We suggest that people engage in partisan evaluation of conditional probabilities, judging hit rates as more important when they support politically prescribed restrictive policies. In two studies, supporters of expelling asylum seekers from Tel Aviv, Israel, of banning Muslim immigration and travel to the United States, and of banning assault weapons judged “hit rate” probabilities (e.g., that terrorists are Muslims) as more important than did policy opponents, who judged the inverse conditional probabilities (e.g., that Muslims are terrorists) as more important. These partisan differences spanned restrictive policies favored by Rightists and Republicans (expelling asylum seekers and banning Muslim travel) and by Democrats (banning assault weapons). Inviting partisans to adopt an unbiased expert’s perspective partially reduced these partisan differences. In Study 2 (but not Study 1), partisan differences were larger among more numerate partisans, suggesting that numeracy supported motivated reasoning. These findings have implications for polarization, political judgment, and policy evaluation. Even when partisans agree about what the statistical facts are, they markedly disagree about the relevance of those statistical facts.

(Ideo)Logical Reasoning: Ideology Impairs Sound Reasoning
Anup Gampa et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Beliefs shape how people interpret information and may impair how people engage in logical reasoning. In three studies, we show how ideological beliefs impair people’s ability to (1) recognize logical validity in arguments that oppose their political beliefs and (2) recognize the lack of logical validity in arguments that support their political beliefs. We observed belief bias effects among liberals and conservatives who evaluated the logical soundness of classically structured logical syllogisms supporting liberal or conservative beliefs. Both liberals and conservatives frequently evaluated the logical structure of entire arguments based on the believability of arguments’ conclusions, leading to predictable patterns of logical errors. As a result, liberals were better at identifying flawed arguments supporting conservative beliefs and conservatives were better at identifying flawed arguments supporting liberal beliefs. These findings illuminate one key mechanism for how political beliefs distort people’s abilities to reason about political topics soundly.

Selective exposure partly relies on faulty affective forecasts
Charles Dorison, Julia Minson & Todd Rogers
Cognition, forthcoming


People preferentially consume information that aligns with their prior beliefs, contributing to polarization and undermining democracy. Five studies (collective N = 2455) demonstrate that such “selective exposure” partly stems from faulty affective forecasts. Specifically, political partisans systematically overestimate the strength of negative affect that results from exposure to opposing views. In turn, these incorrect forecasts drive information consumption choices. Clinton voters overestimated the negative affect they would experience from watching President Trump’s Inaugural Address (Study 1) and from reading statements written by Trump voters (Study 2). Democrats and Republicans overestimated the negative affect they would experience from listening to speeches by opposing-party senators (Study 3). People’s tendency to underestimate the extent to which they agree with opponents’ views drove the affective forecasting error. Finally, correcting biased affective forecasts reduced selective exposure by 24–34% (Studies 4 and 5).

Grand Old (Tailgate) Party? Partisan Discrimination in Apolitical Settings
Andrew Engelhardt & Stephen Utych
Political Behavior, forthcoming


Recent work in political science demonstrates that the American public is strongly divided on partisan lines. Levels of affective polarization are so great, it seems, that partisanship even shapes behavior in apolitical settings. However, this literature does not account for other salient identity dimensions on which people make decisions in apolitical settings, potentially stacking the deck in favor of partisanship. We address this limitation with a pair of experiments studying price discrimination among college football fans. We find that partisan discrimination exists, even when the decision context explicitly calls attention to another social identity. But, importantly, this appears to function mostly as in-group favoritism rather than out-group hostility.

Partisan Patriotism in the American Presidency: American Exceptionalism, Issue Ownership, and the Age of Trump
Jason Gilmore & Charles Rowling
Mass Communication and Society, forthcoming


This study employs issue ownership theory to examine the partisan dynamics surrounding the idea of American exceptionalism in presidential discourse. We conducted a content analysis of invocations of American exceptionalism in all major U.S. presidential addresses — domestic and foreign — from the end of World War II through Trump’s 1st year in office. We find that even though Republicans have traditionally claimed ownership of American exceptionalism, patterns in presidential discourse tell a very different story. Specifically, our results show (a) in domestic contexts, Republican and Democratic presidents were very similar in their invocations of American exceptionalism during the Cold War but that Democrats have held a substantial advantage over Republicans throughout the post–Cold War era, including on issue areas that Republicans are perceived to “own” (e.g. national security); (b) in foreign contexts, Democrats have been much more outspoken in their embrace of American exceptionalism throughout both the Cold War and post–Cold War; and (c) President Trump has diverged significantly, both in substance and frequency, from his Democratic and Republican predecessors in his invocation of American exceptionalism. We reflect on the implications of these findings on our broader understanding of issue — and trait — ownership, presidential discourse, and American exceptionalism in American politics.

Contempt of Congress: Do Liberals and Conservatives Harbor Equivalent Negative Emotional Biases Towards Ideologically Congruent vs. Incongruent Politicians at the Level of Individual Emotions?
Russell Steiger et al.
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, Winter 2019, Pages 100-123


Prior research suggests that conservatives are more fear-motivated, disgust-sensitive, and happy than liberals. Yet when it comes to political targets (e.g., politicians), both liberals and conservatives can get very emotional. We examined whether the ideological differences in emotion seen in past research apply to emotions towards specific ideologically similar vs. dissimilar targets, or whether these emotions are instead equivalent between liberals and conservatives. Across two studies, liberals and conservatives rated their anger, contempt, disgust, fear, and happiness towards Democratic and Republican congresspersons. We compared participants’ levels of each emotion towards their respective ideologically dissimilar and ideologically similar congresspersons. Liberals and conservatives both experienced stronger negative emotions towards ideologically dissimilar congresspersons than they did towards ideologically similar ones. Neither liberals nor conservatives differed in negative emotions towards politicians overall (i.e., on average). However, there were ideological differences in emotional bias. In Study 1, liberals exhibited a greater contempt bias (i.e., a larger gap in contempt ratings between ideologically similar and ideologically dissimilar politicians) than conservatives did. In Study 2, liberals exhibited greater contempt, anger, disgust, and happiness biases than conservatives did. The need to consider context in the study of ideological differences in emotion is discussed.

Partisan mathematical processing of political polling statistics: It’s the expectations that count
Laura Niemi et al.
Cognition, May 2019, Pages 95-107


In this research, we investigated voters’ mathematical processing of election-related information before and after the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections. We presented voters with mental math problems based on fictional polling results, and asked participants who they intended to vote for and who they expected to win. We found that committed voters (in both 2012 and 2016) demonstrated wishful thinking, with inflated expectations that their preferred candidate would win. When performing mathematical operations on polling information, voters in 2012 and 2016 deflated support for the opponent. Underestimation of the opponent was found to be absent among the participants who did not expect their preferred candidate to win. Identical experiments conducted after the elections revealed that partisan mathematical biases largely disappeared in favor of estimates in alignment with reality. Results indicate that mathematical processing of political polling data is biased by people’s voting intentions and wishful thinking, and, crucially, by their expectations about the likely or actual state of the world.

Through the Grapevine: Informational Consequences of Interpersonal Political Communication
Taylor Carlson
American Political Science Review, forthcoming


Much of the US public acquires political information socially. However, the consequences of acquiring information from others instead of the media are under-explored. I conduct a “telephone-game” experiment to examine how information changes as it flows from official reports to news outlets to other people, finding that social information is empirically different from news articles. In a second experiment on a nationally representative sample, I randomly assign participants to read a news article or a social message about that article generated in Study 1. Participants exposed to social information learned significantly less than participants who were exposed to the news article. However, individuals exposed to information from someone who is like-minded and knowledgeable learned the same objective facts as those who received information from the media. Although participants learned the same factual information from these ideal informants as they did from the media, they had different subjective evaluations.

On the Psychological Function of Nationalistic “Whitelash”
Nikhil Sengupta, Danny Osborne & Chris Sibley
Political Psychology, forthcoming


A noticeable feature of the political discourse accompanying the rise of nationalism in white‐majority countries is that white people fare worse than other ethnic groups in their societies. However, it is unclear based on the extant literature why group‐based relative deprivation (GRD) would correlate with majority‐group nationalism. Here, we propose that the psychological function of nationalism for majority‐group members lies in its ability to assuage the negative feelings arising from GRD. Accordingly, in a New Zealand national probability sample (N = 15,607), we found that GRD among whites was negatively associated with well‐being. However, we also found an opposing indirect association mediated by nationalism. GRD was associated with higher nationalism, which was in turn associated with higher well‐being. These findings suggest that endorsing beliefs about national superiority is one way a nation’s dominant ethnic group can cope with the negative psychological consequences of perceiving that their group is deprived.

Is there an ideological asymmetry in the moral approval of spreading misinformation by politicians?
Jonas De keersmaecker & Arne Roets
Personality and Individual Differences, 1 June 2019, Pages 165-169


We investigated the relationship between ideology and moral (dis)approval of spreading misinformation by politicians. In experiment 1 (N = 254), higher scores on Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) and Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) were positively related to tolerance of politicians lying by commission, paltering, and lying by omission. Also, Republicans were more tolerant towards politicians lying by commission and paltering than Democrats. Experiment 2 (N = 395) replicated these results, and examined partisan bias. Democrats (but not Republicans) showed a partisan bias in tolerance of lying by commission, whereas Republicans (but not Democrats) showed a partisan bias in tolerance of paltering. In both experiments, RWA and SDO mediated the relationships between political party and approval of spreading misinformation. These results suggest that right-wing individuals are more tolerant to the spreading of misinformation by politicians, although it should be noted that overall levels of approval were relatively low.

Adolescent life values: An exploratory study of differences and similarities by urbanicity
Sarah Schmitt-Wilson, Mitchell Vaterlaus & Ashley Beck
Social Science Journal, forthcoming


This exploratory correlational study examined whether life values (i.e., goals or principles that guide peoples’ lives) differed by urbanicity. The nationally representative sample included adolescents (N = 13,130) from urban, suburban, and rural communities in the USA. Contrary to our hypotheses, there were few differences in life values among urban, suburban, and rural adolescents in economic, educational, occupational, family, and relationship values. Most differences between urban and rural were observed in social values. This study provides insights into the role of urbanicity in adolescents' life values.

Exploring the Relationship Between Housing Downturns and Partisan Elections: Neighborhood-Level Evidence from Maricopa County, Arizona
Deirdre Pfeiffer, Jake Wegmann & Alex Schafran
Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming


An understudied outcome of foreclosure crises is how their aftershocks affect partisan elections. Two hypotheses are that partisan shifts may occur in neighborhoods with concentrated foreclosures because of (1) declines in turnout among liberal leaning voters or (2) swells of anti-incumbency among all voters. This research explores these hypotheses in Maricopa County, Arizona, by using econometric modeling to uncover associations among neighborhood foreclosures, voter turnout, and changes in the Republican vote share between the 2006 and the 2010 Arizona gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections. Our results show evidence of (1) anti-incumbent voting behavior and more liberal shifts among neighborhoods harder hit by foreclosures and (2) conservative shifts in neighborhoods experiencing African-American and Latinx population growth. These findings are suggestive of a link between neighborhood housing market distress and neighborhood partisan shifts, which in aggregate may shape state and national policymaking and future neighborhood conditions.

Local News and National Politics
Gregory Martin & Joshua McCrain
American Political Science Review, forthcoming


The level of journalistic resources dedicated to coverage of local politics is in a long-term decline in the US news media, with readership shifting to national outlets. We investigate whether this trend is demand- or supply-driven, exploiting a recent wave of local television station acquisitions by a conglomerate owner. Using extensive data on local news programming and viewership, we find that the ownership change led to (1) substantial increases in coverage of national politics at the expense of local politics, (2) a significant rightward shift in the ideological slant of coverage, and (3) a small decrease in viewership, all relative to the changes at other news programs airing in the same media markets. These results suggest a substantial supply-side role in the trends toward nationalization and polarization of politics news, with negative implications for accountability of local elected officials and mass polarization.

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