Who are these people?

In this interview, Washington Post columnist Shankar Vedantam discusses a study that found that the attempt by fact checking organizations to correct misinformation received by voters does not actually correct the misinformation, but often times reinforces it. So who are these people who seem either unaffected by facts, or are encouraged to think the opposite . . . well, apparently conservatives:

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: The researchers, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, brought in a bunch of Republicans and told them about the Bush Administration’s claims that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the 2003 U.S. invasion. And then they provided the volunteers with essentially a correction of that information.

About 34 percent of conservatives believed that Iraq had either hidden or discarded the weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invasion, but after they heard both claim and refutation, 64 percent of conservatives believed that Iraq had had the weapons of mass destruction.

In other words, the refutation caused more people to believe in the Bush Administration’s claim than they did before.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Are there any other examples of that?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: There was one other example – tax cuts increase revenue. This has been a subject of some contention. And, again, the researchers, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, brought in both conservatives and liberals and told them about this claim of the Bush Administration, and then provided them a refutation by several economists, including several who worked for the Bush Administration, both current and past officials.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: People who are arguing against the idea that tax cuts increased revenue.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: That's right, and where 35 percent of conservatives believed the claim that tax cuts increase revenue before they heard the refutation, 67 percent of those provided with both the claim and the refutation believed the claim.

So, again, the refutation strengthened the power of the bad information rather than weakening it.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: How is this possible?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: The most plausible explanation seems to be that when conservatives are strongly emotionally invested in that point of view and they hear a refutation, they might start to argue back against the refutation in their own minds. And this internal argument is so strong that it eventually persuades even more of them that the misinformation was accurate.


Vedantam goes on to say that this may also be true for liberals, but the researchers found it primarily in conservatives because the questions asked were “hot-button issues.” Of course, there’s always the off chance that liberals don’t react this way as much because we don’t have to; our party didn’t crown this country’s most dishonest president in history.

Damn, I gotta’ say, what a life conservatives lead. If you lie and no one notices, hurrah! If you lie and someone notices, hurrah again, now even more people in your party believe you.

That’s because, as Colbert brilliantly puts it, you gotta’ look things up in your gut:

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