This article explains why people believe politicians - regardless of the evidence otherwise. See the article below


People are determined to stick to their own beliefs -- no matter what fact-checkers say.

By Sheila Eldred

The day before the vice-presidential debate, the candidates are already prepping the public for the lies the other guy is planning to tell.

"The vice president has been studying up on (Ryan's) real positions and is prepared to call him out on his actual positions," an adviser to Joe Biden told Reuters, for example, who warned that "maybe there will be some dishonesty."

And while many resources have exposed the exaggerations and falsehoods of the first presidential debate, when we tune into Paul Ryan and Joe Biden on Thursday, most of us will still believe the rhetoric of our preferred candidate.

Why? It's human nature to seek out information that supports our own beliefs and values, said Trevor Parry-Giles, University of Maryland professor of political communications.

"It explains why people who fall on the conservative end of the political spectrum link to Fox News, whereas those on the liberal end are more likely to tune into National Public Radio or MSNBC," he said.

He's even noticed himself doing it.

"When I was listening to the debate, I was not preoccupied with fact checking the president," Parry-Giles said. "I assume the President is telling the truth, because of my politics. But to Romney, I was screaming at the screen 'That's a lie!' And on the other side, others have the same reaction to President Obama."

Our inclination to affirm our beliefs and preferences might also help explain the results of a poll by the Pew Research Center in July that showed that 30 percent of Republicans say that President Obama -- a Christian -- is a Muslim.

Not everything is as easily fact checkable as the religion of the President, Parry-Giles pointed out.

"When Paul Ryan said he ran a sub 3-hour marathon, you can empirically disprove that," he said. "But when Romney says my tax cut is not really $5 trillion -- that's fudgable. Is that over a decade? What does that really mean? When you get into the realm of fact-checking, you're assuming everything is fact checkable, and some political truths are not empirical."

Consider a candidate talking about future job projections, for example, and the truth becomes murky.

"Truth is a tough thing," said Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth. "We can disagree about what the right policy should be, but I'd like to hope we could agree on which facts are consistent with the best available evidence -- and keep claims that are unsupported or false out of the national debate. I hope ... or wish ... we could achieve more of a consensus on what is false."

But even that is not easy.

Corrections in the media can often backfire, Nyhan said. For one, they can perpetuate myths simply by repeating the information -- even when the negative in the statement is added, people often don't remember it. Second, consider an experiment Nyhan and a colleague conducted an experiment in 2010: Participants read a fake news story in which President Bush claimed that his tax cuts "helped increase revenues to the Treasury."

Some of the fake stories included a correction: the tax cuts "were followed by an unprecedented three-year decline in nominal tax revenues, from $2 trillion in 2000 to $1.8 trillion in 2003." All the participants were asked whether "Bush's tax cuts have increased government revenue."

Among liberals who read the corrected version, fewer respondents said the cuts increased revenue. But among conservatives who read the corrected version, over 60 percent said the cuts increased revenue -- as opposed to just over 30 percent of the conservatives who read the version without the correction.

"Once these things are out there, it's very hard to roll them back," Nyhan said. "Some people are quite determined to stick to their beliefs no matter what you tell them."

Throw in one more statistic -- that Americans who have a great deal of trust in the media is down to 40 percent, according to a Gallup poll -- and the magnitude of agreeing on a single truth becomes clear.

That's not stopping some from trying, however. Before he settles in to watch Thursday's debate, Nyhan will unplug from social media -- yes, even Twitter.

"My wife couldn't believe it, but I think there's some value in it," he said. "There's some clarity in having our own opinions and not accruing predigested opinions."

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Replies to This Discussion

But I don't believe them; I know that most politicians will say whatever they think will get the most votes.  I usually find myself voting for what I consider to be the lesser of two evils. (I don't bother with the small parties, like the Greens, because I know they don't have a snowball's chance in a furnace.)

In the 2008 primaries, I did vote for Mike Gravel, even though 1) our California primaries arent until June, and have NO influence at all, and 2) I knew he was the least popular because he's a Unitarian.  BUT I refused to vote for Mrs. Clinton because of her 2002 speech in the Senate that was passionately in favor of the Iraq war.  Was she THAT stupid? Or was she pandering for conservative hawkish votes? She also has had close connections to The Family Fellowship...buncha subversive, male chauvinist, fundamentalist, very scary power brokers.

And I was wary of Obama's religious connections.  Didn't know if that was real or feigned...I still don't know.  He was raised by two Freethinkers, his mother and his grandmother, but he was, and still is, god-blessing everything in sight.  Makes me cringe every time he does it.

BUT in the Nov. 2008 general election, I sure as *bleep!* didn't want McCain and Bimbo.  At one time (2000 - 2007) I believed McCain was an honorable man; he sponsored a bill that would have cleaned up the financial mess of political contributions, and just possibly have made Citizens United impossible, but it failed to pass Bush's Senate.  But when he allowed himself to be talked into accepting The Bimbo as his running mate ...without vetting her...he lost me forever.

So, no, I don't believe what politicians say; I watch what they do.  Same as priests, evangelists, used-car salesmen.

And I will never, ever vote for The Moron Mormon Robot no matter what he says. If he sincerely believes that ridiculous book, he belongs in a padded cell.  I'd rather see Obama get a majority in the House and Senate, and try to get something done instead of running into Tea Party brick walls all the time.

And I'd like to see Karl Rove defeated so badly that he is forced to find some other line of work.  Or retires to the Cayman Islands with all the money the Koch brothers have already paid him.

Well I'm like you sk8eycat - I don't believe them either - but someone or some people believe them. They somehow get voted into office - even with all the lies.

well, like the article said a lot of what they say isn't really a lie since they're talking about hypothetical scenarios ie "If I were elected/ in my second term etc." I think they're obviously trying to pander to certain people and obviously we're all biased and are going to think one guy is lying more than the other but often times I find it's not that they're lying it's just they don't know what they're talking about. Those are two different things. 

From Language Intelligence

"To paraphrase Homer, people are filled with joy to hear a politician

  • who has mastered the art of appealing both to the heart and mind with words,
  • who is the best at telling persuasive stories."  (page 19)

And what is this rhetorical art? Churchill described it.

"The direct, though not the admitted, object which the orator has in view is to

allay the commonplace influences and critical faculties of his audience,

by presenting to their imaginations a series of vivid impressions

         which are to be replaced before they can be too closely examined and

         vanish before they can be assailed." (page 4) [emphasis mine]

In short, such is the structure of the human mind that audiences are filled with joy

to hear politicians skilled

         at lulling their critical faculties

                  by dazzling them with persuasive stories

                         full of vivid impressions that

                                replace one another

                                      too fast to be examined

                                             or questioned.

Joe the Plumber, therefore your policy analysis and facts are invalid.

Are those blobs fulla hot air?

That's the blobs of hot air from the politicians - hehe.
Ruth that was a creative way to write your reply - very catchy to the eye and fun to read. Thanks and I agree with your assessment.

What I find to be quite surprising in this article is that "Americans who have a great deal of trust in the media is down to 40 percent, according to a Gallup poll."  I'm really surprised that so many people (40 percent) still have a relatively high opinion of the media.  The credibility of the media has been in constant decline for years.  News reporting has changed from relating facts to expressing opinion.  In this age of instant information sharing and abundant news sources, it's such a travesty and a disservice to the general public that the truth is being overshadowed and buried by mounds of unchecked inaccuracies and garbage chatter.  Just look at how television, radio and print media have slashed the number of personnel in their news departments.  As a result, we are all left to swim in a sea of ignorance. 

Yes, Flying Atheist I would expect less confidence in the media than 40% - but many people are duped into believing whatever they are told and do not question.

Thanks for your input Jonathan. Appreciate it.

Great discussion, Steph, and I wholeheartedly agree with all that has been said. My contribution will not be liked by those who wave flags, or who tear up when the national anthem rings out, or when calling out to god to bless america. Although our foundational documents spell out a noble ideal, never has it been in effect; many of the Founding Fathers owned and supported slaves labor, many, if not all, were relatively wealthy and educated. Stated desires to have an educated voting block fell far short with unequal access to education of quality. Founded by men who did not want kings and popes and religions to have power, many believed the only criteria for citizenship with a right to vote was ownership of property. 
The ideal of USA does make me stand tall and sing with vigor; underlying that is the realization that USA does not provide a perfect government for all our people. Many are left out, and some deliberately so. Why? 
As usual, Ruth provides ample and valid explanations and bears repeating:

In short, such is the structure of the human mind that audiences are filled with joy

to hear politicians skilled

         at lulling their critical faculties

                  by dazzling them with persuasive stories

                         full of vivid impressions that

                                replace one another

                                      too fast to be examined

                                             or questioned.

By Ruth Anthony-Gardner

Thanks, Joan.




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