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Jarrod32

Interesting Read..."The Disinformed Electorate"

12 posts in this topic

Our Disinformed Electorate

We saw more aggressive fact-checking by journalists in this election than ever before. Unfortunately, as a post-election Annenberg Public Policy Center poll confirms, millions of voters were bamboozled anyway.

By Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Brooks Jackson | factcheck.org

Dec 13, 2008 | Updated: 9:22 a.m. ET Dec 13, 2008

More than half of U.S. adults (52 percent) said the claim that Sen. Barack Obama's tax plan would raise taxes on most small businesses is truthful, when in fact only a small percentage would see any increase.

More than two in five (42.3 percent) found truth in the claim that Sen. John McCain planned to "cut more than 800 billion dollars in Medicare payments and cut benefits," even though McCain made clear he had no intent to cut benefits.

The first falsehood was peddled to voters by McCain throughout his campaign, and the second was made in a pair of ads run heavily in the final weeks of the campaign by Obama.

These aren't isolated examples. One in four (25.6 percent) of those who earned too little to have seen any tax increase under Obama's plan nevertheless believed that he intended to "increase your own federal income taxes," accepting McCain's repeated claims that "painful" tax hikes were being proposed on "families." Nearly two in five (39.8 percent) thought McCain had said he would keep troops in combat in Iraq for up to 100 years, though he'd actually spoken of a peacetime presence such as that in Japan or South Korea. Close to one in three (31 percent) believed widely disseminated claims that Obama would give Social Security or health care benefits to illegal immigrants, when in fact he would do neither.

We're not surprised. As we wrote in "unSpun: finding facts in a world of disinformation," the same thing happened in 2004 when majorities of voters believed untrue things that had been fed to them by the Bush and Kerry campaigns.

One reason is obvious: Political ads run thousands of times and reach far more people than articles on FactCheck.org. On our best day, we were read by 462,678 visitors. By contrast, the Obama campaign aired two ads claiming that McCain planned to cut Medicare benefits a total of 17,614 times at a cost estimated to be more than $7 million – which is several times more than FactCheck.org's entire annual budget.

There are deeper reasons as well. We humans all have a basic disposition to embrace our side's arguments and reject or ignore those offered by an opponent. Our polling reflects that. After taking differences in age, race, gender and education into account, Republicans were still 4.4 times more likely than Democrats to believe that Obama would raise taxes on most small businesses, and Democrats were 3.2 times more likely than Republicans to believe that McCain would cut Medicare benefits. Simply put, partisanship trumps evidence.

This also helps explain why so many people accept the most preposterous claims circulated by chain e-mail messages and ignorant or irresponsible bloggers. Our poll found nearly one in five (19 percent) falsely think Obama is a Muslim, and even more (22 percent) find truth in the claim that he's nearly half Arab. Republicans were 2.8 times more likely than Democrats to buy the Muslim claim, and just over twice as likely to swallow the half-Arab notion.

This is "group think" in action. We humans tend to marry, date, befriend and talk with people who already agree with us, and hence are less likely to say, "Wait a minute – that's just not true."

Consultants also dupe us by exploiting our partisan preconceptions. People tend to believe Democrats are more likely than Republicans to raise taxes, so McCain was pushing on an open door when he repeatedly claimed Obama would raise taxes on ordinary voters, and not just the most affluent. By the same token, Obama found it easy to sell his bogus claim that McCain planned to cut Medicare benefits by 22 percent, because Republicans have a reputation as opponents of social programs.

Voters aren't highly knowledgeable about government to begin with. Our poll shows that nearly one in three (31 percent) think Congress or the president, not the Supreme Court, have the final call on whether laws are constitutional. Nearly one in 10 (9.9 percent) think Republicans still control the House of Representatives, even though they've had two years to catch up on results of the 2006 elections.

And voters, once deceived, tend to stay that way despite all evidence. Nearly half in our poll (46 percent) agreed that Saddam Hussein played a role in the attacks of September 11, even though no solid evidence has ever emerged to support this notion.

None of this bodes well for the future, in our view. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigns that systematically disinform the public can only make the task of governing harder for the eventual winner. But are we discouraged that our efforts didn't prevent this? Not at all. If we hadn't tried, it might have been worse.

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Ain't that race already been run, dude? Can you dig up some dirt on Sarah Palin's wardrobe expenses too?

Windy

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i see that as less of a political statement and more a statement of human behavior and phsycology.

Both sides used human nature to their advantage and tried to make their opponent fit into the negative sterotypes of each party. If you are a republican you are highly likely to believe anything that McCain said, whether it be truth or not. And like wise if you are a Democrat you are likley to believe what Obama tells you.

It was funny that during the election people constantly ranted about the opposing side always "drinking the koolaid", when in reality both sides drank the koolaid, they are just drinking different flavors.

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the two most unelectable candidates ran against each other this year.

the two most unelectable senate candidates in this state ran against each other this year

words like"hope and change" or "maverick" are enough to throw many in the electorate into orgasmic joy, i guess

America...it was good while it lasted.

either one was just going to be a Bush third term. the only change would be fiscal responsibility, enforced immigration laws, prudent use of our military, no bailouts, and limited government. neither one this year would deliver

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Tru Dat Wade, the first publically annointed president! Messiah Obama, truth be darned (had to clean that one up or the word police would have deleted it)LOL

Windy

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Who put him in is irrelevant now. he got elected, congrads, good luck, all that jazz.

if it wasn't for the "stellar' performance of the GOP under GWB in the last eight years, the election might have had different results.

i dont put much stock in what candidates say during a campaign as both sides toss around the bull aplenty.

how many people actually look at a candidate's record before voting?? both mccain and obama were disasters waiting to happen. sadly, one of them had to win

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Even though my guy didn't win I would not wish the current state of affairs on anyone. Good Luck Lord Obama

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Quote:
I'm not going to believe any of this until I get an e-mail FWD to me about it.

Hahahah!!!! YoPaul, that was the funniest post on FishingMN in a long time.

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i see that as less of a political statement and more a statement of human behavior and phsycology.

There's no way to separate the two. Politics has always been a distillation of human nature.

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Quote:
I'm not going to believe any of this until I get an e-mail FWD to me about it.

Hahahah!!!! YoPaul, that was the funniest post on FishingMN in a long time.

What can I say, I try!

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