Is media-driven 'pseudo-reality' the future of U.S. politics?

Apr 11, 2012

(Phys.org) -- In the hyperpolarized world of the 2012 election, misinformation among Americans remains widespread, a new University of Wisconsin-Madison study finds.

One in five Americans, for example, still believe that President is a Muslim, while almost seven in 10 Americans mistakenly think was the first to say "I can see Russia from my house."

Obama is a Christian, of course, and the "seeing Russia from my house" quote originated from a "Saturday Night Live" skit with Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin.

"Politically, we may be moving more and more toward a world where our beliefs are shaped not by what is really true, but instead by the pseudo-realities created by talk shows and political pundits," says Dietram A. Scheufele, the John E. Ross Professor of Life Sciences Communication at UW-Madison and an expert in public opinion research.

Commentators have long blamed the highly polarized political climate in the U.S. for among voters. And for misperceptions of Obama's faith this may be true, the new UW-Madison study shows. Even after controlling for the effects of a host of demographic and media use factors, Republicans had a 50 percent higher probability (or were about 11 percentage points more likely) than Democrats to believe that Obama is Muslim.

The gap between conservatives and liberals, however, was much wider among the most informed voters, the Wisconsin researchers found. Conservatives with higher levels of general (as identified through a battery of true/false knowledge questions) actually had a slightly greater likelihood of identifying Obama as a Muslim than less knowledgeable conservatives. Among liberals, misperceptions decreased dramatically as levels of general political knowledge increased.

"The fact that misperceptions about Obama's are higher among less-informed liberals than more knowledgeable liberals poses a problem for the president," says lead co-investigator Dominique Brossard, a UW-Madison professor of Life Sciences Communication and an expert in media, science and policy. "It shows that he is facing an uphill battle against these misperceptions, even among some of his own constituencies."

Political leaning made no significant difference in respondents' beliefs about the origins of the "I can see Russia from my house" statement, with almost three quarters of the American population across all ideological groups falsely attributing the statement to Sarah Palin.

And based on the new Wisconsin study, much of the blame goes to news media, including late night comedy, such as the "Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show." After controlling for other factors such as demographics and media use, the analysis shows that heavy viewers of late night TV comedy shows had a probability of believing that Palin was the first to say "I can see Russia from my house" that was almost 8 percentage points higher than that calculated for lighter viewers.

Similarly, heavy traditional news media users were 12 percentage points more likely than light users to think Sara Palin was the first to say "I can see Russia from my house." But there is a silver lining: Online news consumers were more likely to get their facts straight. Heavy users of online were 12 percentage points less likely than lighter online news users to falsely attribute the statement to the former Alaska governor.

"In contrast to beliefs about President Obama's religion, misperceptions of what Palin said about her proximity to Russia cut across partisan and ideological fault lines," said UW-Madison communication arts professor Michael Xenos, one of the co-investigators and an expert on the effects of political entertainment media. "Apparently some impressions are so good," adds Xenos in reference to Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin, "that people of different partisan outlooks and various levels of political knowledge can be taken in."

Some commentators may interpret these findings as just another indictment of the dysfunctional "lamestream" media spectacle that surrounds modern elections. And there may be some truth to that, say the UW-Madison researchers who conducted the study: "Most citizens observe the political theater in Washington indirectly through the lens of mass media. And our findings show that misinformation about what politicians say or do can become fact in voters' minds if it is just repeated often enough in news ."

The one upside is that there seems to be little partisan bias to the misperceptions about Sara Palin, at least. In fact, even journalists seem to have a hard time telling Tina Fey and Sara Palin apart. Last year, for example, Fox News had to apologize for accidentally using a stock photo of Tina Fey in a story about Sarah Palin's potential presidential bid.

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User comments : 48

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AWaB
4.8 / 5 (4) Apr 11, 2012
I think the problem is the reporting of the polarization... at least if this link below is correct.

http://www.livesc...ted.html

I remember reading this a few months ago. It pretty much sums up what you'll find at a social gathering. While most people don't have identical views, most of us can compromise on just about all topics and really aren't that far apart on most of them. I have a feeling that the polarization is coming from the 24-hour news stations and blogosphere (sp?). It's a shame because a little compromise in Washington could put us on a much better path than we're on now.
OldBlackCrow
5 / 5 (3) Apr 11, 2012
It doesn't help that the politicians themselves lie or misrepresent facts to the people. Both parties are equally guilty of this. They promise things they can or won't ever deliver and they misquote, misrepresent and outright lie to ensure they attain and maintain power.

There are few statesmen in our country and the ones that do run get pushed asside from the media or the 'power players'. Most people are suseptable to the BS and politicians know how to manipulate. I don't see this changing... ever.
SoylentGrin
5 / 5 (5) Apr 11, 2012
It's a result of misinformation being retold over and over and over, no matter how many times the information is refuted. Those spreading the misinformation never say, "Oh, I was wrong." and correct themselves. If they just stopped altogether, even, it would help. Instead, they just keep repeating it, ignoring those criticizing them.
How many times do we keep hearing that Al Gore claimed to invent the internet? Those spreading the misinformation aren't interested in what's true or not, they are trying to achieve some other goal.

If one person's goal is to establish facts, and another one's goal is to push an agenda or a position or discredit an opponent, those people aren't even playing the same game, let alone using the same rules.
ryggesogn2
1.4 / 5 (11) Apr 11, 2012
How many believe MORE govt 'stimulus' will create jobs?
The MSM seems to.

How about Media Matters, a 'non-profit', 'non-partisan' organization coordinating with the Obama regime and writing the scripts for NBC news?
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (12) Apr 11, 2012
"One of the most vicious left-wing outfits is Media Matters, which is pledging to spend $20 million to influence news coverage in favor of President Obama."
"The line that we had from someone who worked at Media Matters for a long time was, and I'm quoting now, "We basically write their prime time. Anything we write, particularly anything that pertains to FOX News." And a lot of what Media Matters writes does pertain to FOX News, they run it basically verbatim."

Read more: http://www.foxnew...rkC5dzhN

Millions of muslims believe Obama is a muslim because his father was muslim. That is Sharia law.
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (13) Apr 11, 2012
"under Islamic law, the Muslim world sees Barack Obama as a Muslim, as a son of Islam: according to Sharia, if ones father is Muslim, one automatically becomes Muslim. In fact, the reason behind last weeks church attack in Egypt, when thousands of Muslims tried to torch a church and kill its pastor, is that a Christian girl fled her father after he converted to Islam: she did not want to be Muslim, and was rumored to be hiding in the church. (This would not be the first time in recent months that churches were attacked on similar rumors.)"
"Another reason why many Muslims believe Obama is Muslim (a reason Ms. Hasans article understandably omits) is that, under the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya, Muslims are permittedin certain contexts even encouragedto deny being Muslim, if so doing secures them or Islam an advantage."
http://pjmedia.co...f-islam/
Sigh
4.1 / 5 (7) Apr 11, 2012
How many believe MORE govt 'stimulus' will create jobs?
The MSM seems to.

How about Media Matters, a 'non-profit', 'non-partisan' organization coordinating with the Obama regime and writing the scripts for NBC news?

Does that mean the only thing you object to is the idea that misperceptions occur across the political spectrum, and you think they happen only on the left? Do you think you are perfectly objective?

Millions of muslims believe Obama is a muslim because his father was muslim. That is Sharia law.

Is that supposed to be an example of Muslim misperception, or are you defending the claim that Obama is a Muslim?

If Sharia law says Obama should be Muslim, doesn't his public insistence on being Christian make him apostate in Sharia law? Do you think Obama should care whether a religion claims him that he doesn't believe in? Would you count Anne Frank as Mormon, just because she has been repeatedly retroactively baptised by Mormons?
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (11) Apr 11, 2012
Do you think you are perfectly objective?

All is heuristic.
No one is objective, but the 'liberal' media and their supporters assert they are the ONLY ones who are objective.
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (10) Apr 11, 2012
Do you think you are perfectly objective?


"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve."
Max Planck
Read more at http://www.brainy...5zFik.99

How many scientist believe they are perfectly objective?
Sigh
4.2 / 5 (6) Apr 11, 2012
Do you think you are perfectly objective?

All is heuristic.

No. Unless you interpret the term heuristic differently from anything I have seen. If you mean that you can't have absolute certainty about empirical data, I agree, but "heuristic" is not the right word for that.

No one is objective

I generally agree, though I think mathematicians can manage when discussing mathematical proofs. There may be other cases. That answers the simplest and least interesting of my questions. Any chance of an answer to the others?
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (11) Apr 11, 2012
, but "heuristic" is not the right word for that.

That is your heuristic.

"An engineer solves problems using heuristics. A heuristic is anything that provides a plausible aid or direction in the solution of a problem but is, in the final analysis, unjustified, incapable of justification, and fallible."
http://www.me.ute...OUP.html
Sigh
5 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2012
That is your heuristic.

I have asked you questions today that I find far more interesting. Any chance of an answer? For example, was that long bit about many Muslims believing Obama to be a Muslim supposed to be an example of Muslim misperception, or a defense of the notion that Obama is a Muslim? It would only take a few words to answer that, far less than you have devoted to heuristics. If your lengthy argument is not about Muslim misperception, how could it possibly be relevant to Obama's faith? Do you think Mormons' retrospective baptism of Anne Frank makes her a Mormon?
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (3) Apr 11, 2012
If Obama is a Christian how can he possibly be qualified to be president? He's suffering from an obvious mental disorder...isn't he?
Skultch
5 / 5 (5) Apr 11, 2012
ryggesogn2 (formerly known as marjon) is clearly only interested in making the problem described in this article worse. He feels so strongly in his ideology, he simply throws the idea of compromise out the window from the get go. It's actually a bit ironic, in this thread.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.4 / 5 (39) Apr 11, 2012
"Borrowing a trillion dollars plus was the greatest thing we ever did." - Budget advisor to Ronald Reagan.

"How many believe MORE govt 'stimulus' will create jobs?" - RyggTard
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (38) Apr 11, 2012
It is time to defund the treasonous Republican party.

"How about Media Matters" - RyggTard
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (36) Apr 11, 2012
Probably none, since only the maleducated and maladjusted use ill defined terms like "perfect" in any question or statement that they intend to be serious.

"How many scientist believe they are perfectly objective?" - RyggTard
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) Apr 11, 2012
What are you talking about the future?
It already is reality.
Skultch
not rated yet Apr 11, 2012
If Obama is a Christian how can he possibly be qualified to be president? He's suffering from an obvious mental disorder...isn't he?


I think most atheists think they know Obama is secretly one of them. This is probably simply due to the fallacious way we sometimes automatically equate higher intelligence with a higher probability for atheism. We've all probably contemplated the possibility of an open atheist becoming a US president and most have concluded that it is not possible. Yet. I sometimes wonder what the average US christian conservative would rather have; a muslim or atheist president.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.4 / 5 (37) Apr 11, 2012
I don't know if Obama is an atheist, but we all know that former Torturer and Chief George Bush is a "good Christian" according to his Christian supporters.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 11, 2012
Pseudo reality is where it's at man. Just look at Reality TV and the number of Children who's eyeballs are perpetually transfixed on virtual reality video games.

Life, death, who cares? Just change the channel or hit reset.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2012
an example of Muslim misperception,

Perception is reality. It doesn't matter what I believe about Obama. He can say anything he wants, who can validate his answer about his faith?
However, voters and a media that makes an attempt to be accurate can document his actions and compare them with his statements.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Apr 11, 2012
"Vice President Joe Biden described former Saturday Night Live comedian, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., as a "leading legal scholar," presumably in the Senate, today.

"He has been one of the leading legal scholars," Biden said of Franken today, "
http://campaign20...r/475576
Biden, the bright star of the Obama regime!
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 11, 2012
A key plank of the Libertarian/Randite Liedeology

"Perception is reality" - RyggTard
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (36) Apr 11, 2012
From RyggTard's echo chamber link....

"Vice President Joe Biden described former Saturday Night Live comedian, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., as a "leading legal scholar," presumably in the Senate, today." - RyggTard's Link

In other words the author doesn't actually know where or what Biden said. He Presumes.

As RyggTard said... He Libertarian/Randite faith holds that his belief is reality.
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2012
I think most atheists think they know Obama is secretly one of them.


So he's either a Christian or a liar....

;)

Yet. I sometimes wonder what the average US christian conservative would rather have; a muslim or atheist president.


Well I can tell you for sure that THIS Christian would rather have an atheist president :)

Yet. I sometimes wonder if your average atheist would rather have; a Christian or a Muslim president....
kaasinees
1 / 5 (3) Apr 11, 2012
I think most atheists think they know Obama is secretly one of them.


So he's either a Christian or a liar....

Obama definitely is a liar.
He is only there to please AIPAC anyway.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (36) Apr 11, 2012
I think they would rather have a president who wasn't delusional.
Modernmystic
3.5 / 5 (4) Apr 11, 2012
I think they would rather have a president who wasn't delusional.


Well that wasn't a choice, nice try though. I'll even go a step further, and put forward that ALL people are delusional. All people make irrational decisions, all hold irrational beliefs that reinforce their worldview. Anyone who's ever been in love has almost certainly deluded themselves to some extent.

No human being on this planet has it all figured out Vendicar...including you.
Jonseer
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 12, 2012

For those who insist President Obama is a Muslim, last I checked Sharia law isn't used in the USA and was NOT used in Hawaii when he was born.

What President Obama is is and WAS and WILL ALWAYS BE determined by AMERICAN Law.

By insisting the President is a Muslim based on what citizens of other nations, foreign Muslims you are declaring YOU SUPPORT Sharia OVER American law and the US Constitution.

The irony is indeed rich.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (3) Apr 12, 2012
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 12, 2012
Then your question was badly formed.

"Well that wasn't a choice, nice try though." - Modern

What would you rather have? A red hot poker up your backside or a red hot poker down your throat?

Rational people would rather have neither.
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 12, 2012
True. I am still not quite sure how self interference occurs in a quantum field, or how quantum state preservation occurs in continuous fields.

"No human being on this planet has it all figured out Vendicar...including you." - Modern

Skultch
5 / 5 (2) Apr 12, 2012
I think most atheists think they know Obama is secretly one of them.


So he's either a Christian or a liar....


Yep. And if this atheist wanted to become Prez, I wouldn't call myself a Christian, but I would probably state, over and over again, that I think God's existence is plausible. I would also try very hard to refrain from directly answering if the biblical God exists, because I don't think it does, as described.

Yet. I sometimes wonder what the average US christian conservative would rather have; a muslim or atheist president.


Well I can tell you for sure that THIS Christian would rather have an atheist president :)

Yet. I sometimes wonder if your average atheist would rather have; a Christian or a Muslim president....


That wouldn't be enough info for me. Since I've been an agnostic/atheist my entire life, I have no reason to have a priority. To put it very simply, I would pick the least religious of two candidates.
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) Apr 12, 2012
Yep. And if this atheist wanted to become Prez, I wouldn't call myself a Christian, but I would probably state, over and over again, that I think God's existence is plausible. I would also try very hard to refrain from directly answering if the biblical God exists, because I don't think it does, as described.


Too late for you to run? I'm not voting for either candidate in this election unless something as implausible as monkeys flying out dark orifice happens and one of them actually starts talking about changing something....

If Obama or Romney is the best either side can do we're in a world of hurt IMVHO.

That wouldn't be enough info for me. Since I've been an agnostic/atheist my entire life, I have no reason to have a priority. To put it very simply, I would pick the least religious of two candidates.


Indeed, and I don't think this was lost on you, but my the principle inherent in my answer was the same as yours :)
Sigh
not rated yet Apr 13, 2012
Perception is reality.

So if I perceive you to be a Marxist in disguise, that makes it true?

At least your remark makes sense of your previous comment
All is heuristic
when you offer the definition
A heuristic is anything that provides a plausible aid or direction in the solution of a problem but is, in the final analysis, unjustified, incapable of justification, and fallible."

You're a postmodernist. You don't believe there is any such thing as objective reality. And so your comments are, to my surprise, relevant to the article: you don't believe in misperception because you don't believe that any perception can be wrong. That is what I perceive your thinking to be, and that makes it so. Such a relief to have this sorted out at last.
Skultch
5 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2012
Too late for you to run?


Ha! :) Well, for one, I'm younger than 35, so that kills the idea before it even starts right there. I also still have mild-ish PTSD from Iraq, so at this point in my life I don't consider myself suitable for anywhere near that kind of responsibility. I am a very intelligent and intellectually well-rounded war veteran, so, besides the atheist thing, I guess I would be an attractive candidate. I would be an independent, though. In actuality, politics, while considered, is not on my radar for next 5 years.

At this moment, I'm not voting for Prez either, but if it's a tight race and Colorado becomes a crucial swing state, I have to admit that I will probably vote for Obama. I don't like the direction he's going with Presidential powers and civil liberties, but IMO he's still the MUCH lesser of two evils. If Santorum had the nomination, and it looked close, I would campaign for Obama. Romney's simply a tool and not as directly dangerous in my mind
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Apr 13, 2012
What President Obama is is and WAS and WILL ALWAYS BE determined by AMERICAN Law.

The US has freedom of religion and the state does not document anyone's religion, unless one chooses to do so, such as on dog tags.
What matters more is what million of Muslims around the world believe about Obama. So far, Obama seems to prefer theocratic Muslims over democratic Jews. Why?
It could be religion or socialism. After all, a theocratic state is no different than a socialist state.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 14, 2012
Yup... That will effect change.

"I'm not voting for either candidate in this election" - Modern

dumb diddie dumb dumb.
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 14, 2012
True. Americans are controlled by what Muslims around the world think.

"What matters more is what million of Muslims around the world believe about Obama" - RyggTard

When did America turn over it's sovereignty to Muslims around the world?

Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 14, 2012
Perhaps this is why Libertarian Ideology and Economics is a perpetual failure that has destroyed America.

"You don't believe there is any such thing as objective reality." - Sigh
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (37) Apr 14, 2012
Where are those Iraqi WMD again?

Conservative American Cattle are so easily manipulated.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2012
""Dear activist," reads the letter that will be translated in a number of different languages. "We appreciate your choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns. We know there were many other worthy choices.""
"they "could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime's daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives"."
"But instead, the letter read, "you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East's sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear.""
http://www.jpost....d=266012
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 15, 2012
Meanwhile back in reality land....

http://www.youtub...mrc0fxCA

http://www.youtub...=related

http://www.youtub...=related

http://www.youtub...=related

http://www.youtub...=related

"But instead, the letter read, "you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East's sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear." - RyggTard
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2012
Yup... That will effect change.

"I'm not voting for either candidate in this election" - Modern

dumb diddie dumb dumb.


What's even more dumb is thinking that voting WILL effect change...when you get a little older this becomes painfully clear...
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Apr 18, 2012
Yup... That will effect change.

"I'm not voting for either candidate in this election" - Modern

dumb diddie dumb dumb.


What's even more dumb is thinking that voting WILL effect change...when you get a little older this becomes painfully clear...

The last presidential election caused all sorts of BAD change. Maybe that is what the socialists want. Create such turmoil, declare martial law and there would be no more need to vote.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 18, 2012
Absolutely, the U.S. would have been much better off sticking with the failed fiscal and foreign policies of the previous president that presided over the most rapid decline in America since the great depression.

"The last presidential election caused all sorts of BAD change." - RyggTard

Voting Republican is not the fastest way to destroy America. Voting Libertarian is.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2012
A key plank of the Libertarian/Randite Liedeology
"Perception is reality" - RyggTard
Actually Stalin first said that. RyggTard would have made a good NKVD officer.