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This week, two political science blog posts about the difference between political engagement and factual understanding stood out to Malark-O-Meter. (Thanks to The Monkey Cage for Tweeting their links.) First, there's Brendan Nyhan's article at YouGov about how political knowledge doesn't guard against belief in conspiracy theories. Second, there'svoteview's article about issues in the 2012 election. (Side note: This could be the Golden Era of political science blogging) These posts stand out both as cautionary tales about what it means to be politically engaged versus factual, and as promising clues about how to assess the potential biases of professional fact checkers in order to facilitate the creation of better factuality metrics (what Malark-O-Meter is all about).

Read more below the fizzold.

Let's start with Nyhan's disturbing look at the interactive effect of partisan bias and political knowledge on belief in the conspiracy theory that the 2012 unemployment rate numbers were manipulated for political reasons. The following pair of plots (reproduced from the original article) pretty much says it all.

First, there's the comparison of Dem, Indie, and GOP perception of whether unemployment statistics are accurate, grouped by party affiliation and low, medium, and high scores on a ten-question quiz on political knowledge.

Republicans and maybe Independents with greater political knowledge perceive the unemployment statistics to be less accurate.

Here's a similar plot showing the percent in each political knowledge and party affiliation group that believe in the conspiracy theory about the September unemployment statistic report.

Democrats appear less likely to believe the conspiracy theory the more knowledgeable they are. Republicans with greater political knowledge are more likely to believe the conspiracy theory. There's no clear effect among Independents. What's going on?

Perhaps the more knowledgeable individuals are also more politically motivated, and so is their reasoning. It just so happens that motivated reasoning in this case probably errs on the side of the politically knowledgeable Democrats.

Before discussing what this means for fact checkers and factuality metrics, let's look at what voteview writes about an aggregate answer to a different question, posed by Gallup (aka, the new whipping boy of the poll aggregators) about the June jobs report.

In case you haven't figured it out, you're looking at yet another picture of motivated reasoning at work (or is it play?). Democrats were more likely than Republicans to see the jobs report as mixed or positive, whereas Republicans were more likely than Democrats to see it as negative. You might expect this effect to shrink among individuals who say they pay very close attention to news about the report because, you know, they're more knowledgeable and they really think about the issues and... NOPE!

The more people say they pay attention to the news, the more motivated their reasoning appears to be.

What's happening here? In Nyhan's study, are the more knowledgeable people trying to skew the results of the survey to make it seem like more people believe or don't believe in the conspiracy theory? In the Gallup poll, is "paid very close attention to news about the report" code for "watched a lot of MSNBC/Fox News"? Or is it an effect similar to what we see among educated people who tend to believe that vaccinations are (on net) bad for their children despite lots and lots of evidence to the contrary? That is, do knowledgeable people know enough to be dangerous(ly stupid)?

I honestly don't know what's happening, but I do have an idea about what this might mean for the measurement of potential act checker bias to aid the creation of better factuality metrics and fact checking methods. I think we can all agree that fact checkers are knowledgeable people. The question is, does their political knowledge and engagement have the same effect on their fact checking as its does on the perceptions educated non-fact-checkers? If so, is the effect as strong?

I've mentioned before that a step toward better fact checking is to measure the potential effect of political bias on both the perception of fact and the rulings of fact checkers. Basically, give individuals a questionnaire that assesses their political beliefs, and see how they proceed to judge the factuality of statements made by individuals of known party affiliations, ethnicity, et cetera. To see if fact checking improves upon the motivated reasoning of non-professionals, compare the strength of political biases on the fact checking of professionals versus non-professionals.

What these two blog posts tell me is that, when drawing such comparisons, I should take into account not only the political affiliation of the non-professionals, not only the political knowledge of the non-professionals, but the interaction of those two variables. Then, we can check which subgroup of non-professionals the professional fact checkers are most similar to, allowing us to make inferences about whether professional fact checkers suffer from the same affliction of motivated reasoning that the supposedly knowledgeable non-professionals suffer from.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mindara, Swoof, ciganka

    Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

    by Brash Equilibrium on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 10:42:14 PM PST

  •  So if what you're saying is (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OLinda, mindara, skohayes, Smoh

    Democrats are smart and Republicans, even when they think they're smart, are closet idiots, then I agree.

    Democrats appear less likely to believe the conspiracy theory the more knowledgeable they are. Republicans with greater political knowledge are more likely to believe the conspiracy theory. There's no clear effect among Independents. What's going on?




    Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
    ~ Jerry Garcia

    by DeadHead on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 11:08:47 PM PST

    •  That's certainly what it kinda looks like. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Swoof

      Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

      by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:10:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's nice to know I'm smart (0+ / 0-)

        With all due respect though, much of what you seem to be saying doesn't strike me as ground-breaking...

        I've mentioned before that a step toward better fact checking is to measure the potential effect of political bias on both the perception of fact and the rulings of fact checkers. Basically, give individuals a questionnaire that assesses their political beliefs, and see how they proceed to judge the factuality of statements made by individuals of known party affiliations, ethnicity, et cetera. To see if fact checking improves upon the motivated reasoning of non-professionals, compare the strength of political biases on the fact checking of professionals versus non-professionals.
        Don't all good pollsters do this already?




        Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
        ~ Jerry Garcia

        by DeadHead on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 01:08:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No. (0+ / 0-)

          They don't.

          Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

          by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 01:26:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That settles it then. (0+ / 0-)




            Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
            ~ Jerry Garcia

            by DeadHead on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 01:49:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Pretty much. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ciganka

              To clarify, I am unaware of any experiments where professional fact checkers of varying political affiliation have been recruited with a political philosophy task, and the effect of their political philosophy on their fact checker rulings has been compared to a sample of non-professionals who were given the same political philosophy questionnaire and asked to do similar fact checker rulings.

              Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

              by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 02:02:43 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  I'd be interested in seeing a topic on the other (0+ / 0-)

      side be evaluated.  Like the CT here about Tagg owning the voting machine company and belief that repubs were going to steal the election.

      Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

      by Smoh on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 06:52:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm interested in the definition/derivation of (0+ / 0-)

        "political knowledge".  Does the axis bear a relation to empirical truth, or is it an estimation of "invested opinion"?

        These charts strongly suggest the latter, meaning this is not so much a mystery as it is soft measurement.

        It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

        by Murphoney on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 09:18:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Definitely up for grabs (0+ / 0-)

          In the nyhan study, political knowledge was measured via a battery of ten questions. I would definitely like to see that questionnaire. I will contact Nyhan to see what the battery of questions was.

          Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

          by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 10:23:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The questions themselves definitely matter, but (0+ / 0-)

            regardless of content and structure, 10 doesn't seem like a very vigorous list -- and it certainly couldn't be considered expansive let alone all-inclusive, topically, which would call into question its general applicability.

            It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

            by Murphoney on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 10:27:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  err..."rigorous," I mean. (0+ / 0-)

              It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

              by Murphoney on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 10:28:51 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  In addition... (0+ / 0-)

              ...ten questions might not be enough to produce a metric of political knowledge about which we can have a good deal of statistical certainty. That said, the effects do go in a direction that makes sense and makes me eager to see the results of a survey that is based on a larger sample of questions. Of course, he larger the questionnaire the more expensive the survey and the more work put into it's design

              Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

              by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:45:03 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  answer :) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DeadHead, mindara, ciganka

    Republicans who say they are knowledgeable and that they pay attention to a subject, for example, the job numbers, most likely got their information with Hannity's and Limbaugh's and Fox's spin, so they think the numbers were bad.

    Likewise, Democrats who say they are knowledgeable probably got their information from a variety of sources, MSNBC, podcasts, etc., also perhaps with some spin, but the truth, as we know, has a liberal bias.

    Thus, "knowledgeable" Republicans are often/usually wrong, and Democrats are correct.

  •  Additionally, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DeadHead, mindara

    hate clouds judgment. Perhaps the Republicans worked themselves into little tizzies and so it was difficult for them to think straight.

  •  I'm getting the impression this diarist (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OLinda

    Doesn't like to engage with readers.




    Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
    ~ Jerry Garcia

    by DeadHead on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 11:52:15 PM PST

    •  I'm getting the impression... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mindara

      ...that I have a three-year-old daughter needs to get put to bed.

      Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

      by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:09:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  ha (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DeadHead

      I posted about the diarist above before scrolling down and seeing your comment. :) Always nice to say hello, DeadHead. We can just use random diaries for our rendezvouses.

      •  And yet... (0+ / 0-)

        ....you scrolled passed four of "the Diarists" comments. ;-)

        Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

        by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:14:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DeadHead

          They weren't there. The timestamps are close, but I probably reloaded the page a minute or so before my comment above at 1:07 or so, and so your comments weren't showing yet.

          You could have just said, "Sorry guys, I had to take care of my baby daughter. Thanks for your thoughts."

          You can also add that in a diary when you are going to post a diary but not be around for awhile.

        •  let's see (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OLinda

          You posted the diary at 10:42.

          OLinda's and my first comments were about half hour later.

          An hour and ten minutes after your diary was posted, I posted my comment saying something about diarists and engaging. Then you come in and wonder why no one realized you were putting your daughter to bed.

          Do you think we were both wrong about thinking this diary was abandoned?

          It's considered proper diary etiquette to stay with a diary for an hour or so after posting. Not everyone does it, but those who don't usually are recognized as such.

          If you weren't prepared to do that, you should have waited until you were. We would have been here then too, probably.




          Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
          ~ Jerry Garcia

          by DeadHead on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:41:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is hilarious. (0+ / 0-)

            Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

            by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 01:27:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sadly, your interpretation of my comment (0+ / 0-)

              Says more about you than it does about me.

              I really don't think you get it, but that's ok.




              Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
              ~ Jerry Garcia

              by DeadHead on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 01:47:47 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  You really don't know me from Adam, but okay. (0+ / 0-)

                You seriously don't understand why a guy would get offended when someone replies on his Diary that he doesn't appear interested in his readers because he didn't respond to their comments for a couple of hours? Take a few minutes, and just think about it.

                Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

                by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 02:06:03 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  You shouldn't be offended. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  DeadHead

                  Try to take some constructive criticism in that that's pretty much how it is here. This is Daily Kos, not Malark-O-Meter Blog, and DeadHead and I are telling you good form and bad form around here.

                  We're on Internet time and it's all live blogging. When you post a diary, it is expected that you are here and that you are posting because you want to discuss your post. Not later, but now. Things happen though, and when they do, just mention it. Or, like DeadHead said, if you know you can't be around, wait to post your diary until you can be around.

                  You haven't been here long. As you look around and read other diaries, (which you should try), you will see. Here is someone who, after receiving no comments for 30 minutes after posting her diary, still made a comment that she had to leave. Just an example. You can call it a convention, sop, protocol, common courtesy, or When in Rome. Take a few minutes and think about it.

                  •  lol. we really are a pair (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    OLinda

                    I was busy typing my long-winded and inferior comment when I should have been refreshing my browser so I could be reading your substantive and superior one. ;)




                    Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
                    ~ Jerry Garcia

                    by DeadHead on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:03:28 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I don't know about that. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      DeadHead

                      Apparently, skohayes thought differently. Tipped you, and ignored me. :(

                      I thought your comment was completely substantive. :) I particularly like that you pointed out that we actually read the diary.

                      I sometimes don't tip comments containing the F word, but that is a personal problem that has been with me forever. As you can see, it has made quite a difference and you hardly ever see it at Daily Kos anymore!

                      •  I can respect that no-tip (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        OLinda

                        policy on f-words. Some people (my Mom being one of them) don't care for the word.

                        Personally, I love it. I used to use it alot more indiscriminately. I still use it frequently, but when I do, it's intended as an exclamation point to the words around it.

                        No other word seems to do the trick for me in certain circumstances.

                        Maybe skohayes only tips comments with the f-word. ;-P




                        Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
                        ~ Jerry Garcia

                        by DeadHead on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:01:03 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  Still hilarious. (0+ / 0-)

                    Keep up the good work you, too. You're almost done making the noise to signal ratio in this comment section undefined.

                    Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

                    by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 08:12:04 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  You seem to conveniently forget (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      OLinda

                      It didn't start off that way.

                      And it's interesting to note much of the "noise" was trying to understand why you felt it was everyone else's problem other than yours.




                      Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
                      ~ Jerry Garcia

                      by DeadHead on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:10:15 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                •  No, I seriously don't understand (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  skohayes

                  Why? Because a couple of people took some of their time to read your diary.

                  Those same two people wondered, in a rather tame manner, where the diarist was, because, unless otherwise specified with a courteous

                  Hey, I'm posting this and won't be around because I gotta take care of some family stuff, but I'll be back to respond in a couple hours...

                  it's assumed by many of us that when someone writes a diary, the diarist will be around at least for the first hour or so.

                  Then, instead of just replying to us with a

                  Sorry about that! I'm here.
                  you instead responded like we were the problem.

                  And so it goes. I spend my time trying give you a hint, and you spend all your time telling me now fucked-up ridiculous I am for it.

                  Have a nice evening.




                  Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
                  ~ Jerry Garcia

                  by DeadHead on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 02:51:36 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

      •  I'm starting think we have a strangely cool (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OLinda

        connection...

        Always a pleasure...

        :)




        Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
        ~ Jerry Garcia

        by DeadHead on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:27:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is an interesting topic. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OLinda

    When I run onto this kind of bias, I ask myself whether I do this or not.  I think that one must constantly examine one's thoughts and belief systems to keep them updated and free of flawed reasoning.  

    I think that these things do matter, and I observe a great deal of this in the media where discussions start off on flawed assumptions, and go from there.

    It gets on my nerves, and you know how I am about my nerves...

    by ciganka on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:59:23 AM PST

    •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

      I find myself constantly in fear of my own inability not only to combat my own biases, but know that they exist! This is especially the case now that I am obsessed with fact checking and the fact checking industry.

      Brash Equilibrium /brASH ēkwəˈLIBrēəm/ Noun: (1) a state in which the opposing forces of snark and information are balanced. (2) a statistician of truthiness at Malark-O-Meter.

      by Brash Equilibrium on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 08:09:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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