Misinformation and the Political Right

Let’s start with a simple premise: voters make choices based on information. Even highly partisan voters make their partisan decisions based on the information they hear about political parties and candidates aligning or not with their values and beliefs. But it all comes down to information.

What happens when a big ol’ chunk of the electorate is actively misinformed? Would we see what happened across most of the country this past November?

Well, consider the following:

Fox News Viewers Often Misinformed

A new University of Maryland study finds that those “who had greater exposure to news sources were generally better informed… There were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue.”

Key finding: Fox News viewers were were “significantly” more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe false information about the economy, taxes, climate change, bailouts and whether President Obama was born in the United States.

“These effects increased incrementally with increasing levels of exposure and all were statistically significant. The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it.”

And then consider the following:

Lie of the Year

PolitiFact picks the phrase “government takeover of health care” as the Lie of the Year.

“Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections… The phrase is simply not true.”

Nobody debates that, overall, Republicans beat Democrats in the November elections. However, individuals like John Boehner are quick to claim that the election results indicate that the American people have bought into Republican positions. What if a critical mass of voters – particularly voters in swing states and swing districts – were simply misinformed and based their votes on wrong information?

Hypothetically speaking, if voters overall were accurately informed, it appears that Election Day would have yielded much better results for the Democratic Party.

Given that the spread of misinformation appears to heavily benefit the Republican Party, RMGers, which would you prefer if you had to choose between the two following options: an informed electorate that may be more likely to vote for Democrats, or an actively misinformed electorate that may be more likely to vote for Republicans?

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