* Upon request, Dr. Reedy will share all data and coding for replication purposes. Thanks for this article go to the University of Washington Department of Political Science and Dr. Matt Barreto and Dr. Loren Collingwood for their assistance with data from the Washington Poll.
How Voters Become Misinformed: An Investigation of the Emergence and Consequences of False Factual Beliefs*
Article first published online: 22 JUL 2014
© 2014 by the Southwestern Social Science Association
Social Science Quarterly
Special Issue: New Perspectives on Political Participation
Volume 95, Issue 5, pages 1399–1418, December 2014
How to Cite
Reedy, J., Wells, C. and Gastil, J. (2014), How Voters Become Misinformed: An Investigation of the Emergence and Consequences of False Factual Beliefs. Social Science Quarterly, 95: 1399–1418. doi: 10.1111/ssqu.12102
- Issue published online: 12 NOV 2014
- Article first published online: 22 JUL 2014
Voters develop not only different opinions about politics but also different sets of empirical beliefs. It is less clear how falsifiable beliefs take hold. In particular, it remains unclear as to whether news and campaign messages, moderated by political knowledge, drive the process, or whether deep-seated values principally sway voters' acceptance of factual claims. These contrasting views point to a set of testable hypotheses that we use to refine a model of ideologically-biased empirical belief generation, which we call “knowledge distortion.”
We conduct an analysis of survey data on three ballot measures in Washington State, testing hypothesized relationships between voters' empirical beliefs about political issues, news and campaign messages, political knowledge, political values, and partisanship, as well as vote choices on the ballot measures.
Our analysis reveals that voters' values and partisanship had the strongest associations with distorted beliefs, which then influenced voting choices. Self-reported levels of exposure to media and campaign messages played a surprisingly limited role.
Our findings provide further evidence of politically motivated factual misperceptions on political issues, which have an independent effect on voters' ballot decisions. These misperceptions do not seem to be driven by news media and campaign messages, suggesting that citizens may be generating relevant empirical beliefs based on their underlying political values and ideology.