New Study: Don’t Argue With Conservatives – You’re Only Making It Worse

We found this on
Huffpo Politics page.  The Washington Post ran an article called, The Power of Political Misinformation citing a soon-to-be-published study on how people respond to factual information.  It seems the researchers have accomplished what empirical research does best – confirms the obvious. But considering this new information, progressives will need to arrive at a new strategy other than attempting to fight lies with mere truth. 

Research has shown that we all to a certain degree, tend to believe something based on our pre-existing views. But this new study is significant because it shows that conservatives are particularly prone to this phenomenon, and in this particular study factual refutation actually increased their belief in the falsehood. 

From WaPo:

Have you seen the photo of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin brandishing a rifle while wearing a U.S. flag bikini? Have you read the e-mail saying Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was sworn into the U.S. Senate with his hand placed on the Koran? Both are fabricated — and are among the hottest pieces of misinformation in circulation.As the presidential campaign heats up, intense efforts are underway to debunk rumors and misinformation. Nearly all these efforts rest on the assumption that good information is the antidote to misinformation.[Italics BFIA’s]But a series of new experiments show that misinformation can exercise a ghostly influence on people’s minds after it has been debunked — even among people who recognize it as misinformation. In some cases, correcting misinformation serves to increase the power of bad information. [Bold  BFIA’s]

from Huffpo Politics

A new study out of Yale University confirms what argumentative liberals have long-known: Offering reality-based rebuttals to conservative lies only makes conservatives cling to those lies even harder. In essence, schooling conservatives makes them more stupid. From the Washington Post article on the study, which came out yesterday:

Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler provided two groups of volunteers with the Bush administration’s prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. One group was given a refutation — the comprehensive 2004 Duelfer report that concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction before the United States invaded in 2003. Thirty-four percent of conservatives told only about the Bush administration’s claims thought Iraq had hidden or destroyed its weapons before the U.S. invasion, but 64 percent of conservatives who heard both claim and refutation thought that Iraq really did have the weapons. The refutation, in other words, made the misinformation worse.

A similar “backfire effect” also influenced conservatives told about Bush administration assertions that tax cuts increase federal revenue. One group was offered a refutation by prominent economists that included current and former Bush administration officials. About 35 percent of conservatives told about the Bush claim believed it; 67 percent of those provided with both assertion and refutation believed that tax cuts increase revenue.

The typical mantra of the left is that we don’t need to sink to the Republicans’ level because we have the truth on our side. But if the other side is utterly immune to the truth – and indeed, the truth only makes them dig deeper into their fantasy world in which the economy is fundamentally strong and the War in Iraq is a staggering success – what’s a leftie to do?

The authors conclude, “ yourself a favor and save your breath. As the study demonstrates, you’re only making matters worse.”

(click here to read the entire article)

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3 Responses to New Study: Don’t Argue With Conservatives – You’re Only Making It Worse

  1. badweather says:

    I believe this is mainly cognitive dissonance. The person only hears exactly what they want to hear and the fact that you don’t believe this misinformation along with them makes you a fool that believes the “mainstream” media.

    it allows them to say what they believe and this repeated lie eats away at the bi-conceptuals that have been fooled into believing they’re actually conservatives.

    That and all they hear in the “liberal” media are conservative frames.

    You’re a liberal and simply get tuned right out of their view.


  2. Linda Thieman says:

    Well, that is disheartening, to say the least. However, it is still worthwhile for organizations like Democracy for Iowa and Blog for Iowa to print the truth and rally the troops. Don’t give up! My hat is off to all the wonderful posters on Blog for Iowa.


  3. I am a strong progressive Democrat! Hopefully, a peaceful movement
    can be organized to let those members of ALEC know that we want ALEC out of Iowa’s politics!

    Alec has some influence in 40 States. America must stand up to this take over of our Federal and State Government! It is not enough to get them only out of Iowa, they must come out of all of the states that they are in! They must be pulled out of our Federal Government! PEACE!


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