Here are Steel City Skeptics, we try our best to focus on science and facts. Unfortunately, this seemingly obvious way to approach life is not universally held. This was made very clear by a recent article on FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s data-rich blog that consistently shines light by using elegant data mining techniques along with information-rich graphics to make accurate predictions about politics, sports, and life.
In a recent FiveThiryEight post, Anne Pluta argues that Donald Trump supporters are misinformed, not uniformed, and the difference is a very scary one.
Donald Trump has a consistently loose relationship with the truth. So much so, in fact, that the fact-checking website PolitiFact rolled his numerous misstatements into one big “lie of the year.” But all the fact-checking in the world hasn’t pushed Trump toward a more evidence-based campaign, and his support has held steady or even increased in some polls. What explains Trump’s ability to seemingly overcome conventional political wisdom?
One way to understand Trump’s longevity is to look more closely at his supporters. Trump’s backers tend to be whiter, slightly older and less educated than the average Republican voter. But perhaps more importantly, his supporters have shown signs of being misinformed. Political science research has shown that the behavior of misinformed citizens is different from those who are uninformed, and this difference may explain Trump’s unusual staying power.
She then goes on to give the most depressing news that
.. 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.
Nate Silver said that FiveThirtyEight will launching their primary predictions soon. This year, in particular, we are in need of facts and data, which have been sorely lacking the discussion so far.