“…in the U.S., the most misinformed citizens tend to be the most confident in their views and are also the strongest partisans. “
These folks fill the gaps in their knowledge base by using their existing belief systems. Once these inferences are stored into memory, they become “indistinguishable from hard data,” Kuklinski and his colleagues found.
Furthermore, in 2010, political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler found that when misinformed citizens are told that their facts are wrong, they often cling to their opinions even more strongly with what is known as defensive processing, or the “backfire effect.”
Strong partisans are more likely to participate in the primary process, making it also likely that at least some highly engaged primary voters are also confidently misinformed and unwilling to accept contradictory evidence.
…attempts to present corrections and generate counterarguments to the group’s beliefs only strengthened their opinions.
…there are incentives for politicians to keep citizens both misinformed and politically active.
- For most politicians, it doesn’t make sense to use precious resources to try to move or dissuade people from their incorrect positions — especially if this misinformation supports the political actor’s policy positions or legislative goals
- Instead, “the investment of resources goes much further in efforts to work around, accommodate, or even encourage the active misinformed,” the researchers write.
- Moreover… people find psychological comfort in having their opinions validated by others, especially by elites.
So, there are many cases in which it makes more sense for politicians to encourage people to stay misinformed rather than try to provide them with accurate information.