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The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions: Understanding False and Unsupported Beliefs about Politics

Date: 26/01/2017

Publication: Wiley Online Library

Political misperceptions can distort public debate and undermine people’s ability to form meaningful opinions. Why do people often hold these false or unsupported beliefs, and why is it sometimes so difficult to convince them otherwise? We argue that political misperceptions are typically rooted in directionally motivated reasoning, which limits the effectiveness of corrective information about controversial issues and political figures. We discuss factors known to affect the prevalence of directionally motivated reasoning and assess strategies for accurately measuring misperceptions in surveys. Finally, we address the normative implications of misperceptions for democracy and suggest important topics for future research.