Pollsters ask the public all sorts of questions about their political beliefs. But what do people actually believe? Is there any reason to assume that the people are answering the questions asked by the voters truthfully?
This may seem like a strange question. Why do people lie to the voters? I’m not sure, but there is evidence that they lie about their beliefs. There is an excellent article in Reason Magazine Ronald Bailey, Which discusses the tribal nature of the views expressed in the practical question with political influence:
A 2015 study Quarterly Journal of Political Science Attempts have been made to distinguish biased cheerleading from sincere biased deviation. John Bullock, a political scientist at Northwestern University, and his colleagues found that paying small participants to answer politically important questions correctly and “don’t know” reduced the bias between Republicans and Democrats by about 80 percent.
“As much as real beliefs are determined by bias, paying biases to answer correctly will not affect their responses to practical questions. But it does, ”they observe. “We see that even decent payments significantly reduce the observed gap between Democrats and Republicans, suggesting that Democrats and Republicans do not have completely different beliefs about much important information.”
The article cites another academic study that reported some truly surprising results when people were shown pictures of large crowds at Trump’s inauguration and Obama’s inauguration:
But do partisans really see things differently? Perhaps they are mostly cheerleading their team instead of showing real faith. This is a thesis explored in a 2020 research paper by Nottingham University philosopher Michael Hannon. Political epistemology. He pointed to a survey of about 1,400 Americans conducted in January 2017. The researchers showed half the photos of the respondents, only labeled A And B, In the crowd at the National Mall during Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration and Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration. They were asked which picture depicted the crowd for each president. Forty-one percent of Trump voters say the picture with the larger crowd depicts Trump’s inauguration, which is actually a picture of Obama’s inauguration. Only 6 percent of Hillary Clinton voters took the wrong picture. Researchers argue that perhaps Trump voters chose the image with a wider crowd as a way to express their biased allegiance and show their support for him.
More specifically, the researchers asked the other half of respondents which photo depicted the larger crowd. One answer was definitely correct. But Trump was a voter Seven times more likely More voters than Clinton (15 percent) (2 percent) claim that the population of Trump’s inauguration photo was much smaller. Significantly, 26 percent of Trump voters with college degrees answered incorrectly. “When a Republican says there are more people in Trump’s inaugural film, they don’t actually agree with those who claim otherwise. They’re just cheerleading, “Hannon argued. “People are just demanding real things to indicate their allegiance to a particular ideological community.”
Former Econlog blogger Brian Kaplan occasionally bets with people on specific practical questions, because he felt that when money is in line people have less motivation to engage in intentional thinking. These academic studies support Brian’s claim that people don’t always believe what they say.
Robin Hanson argues that some public policy decisions should be guided by the forecast market, and I have specifically directed monetary policy using the NGDP futures market. Public policy can be more effective based on feedback which will prove costly if wrong.
PS In a recent post, I reported This story:
In 2006, lawmakers passed a bill banning almost all abortions, signed by Governor Mike Rounds. It started a brutal campaign that turned into an influential issue in a busy election year with a governor race and 10 other ballot issues. Voters rejected 56% to 44% of the ban.
Opponents of abortion decided to run another race in 2008, collecting enough signatures to return the abortion to the ballot. The main difference between the two measures was that the 2008 effort included exceptions to rape and maternal health. Opposition groups called for a boycott of the by-elections in 2006.
They were wrong. The 2008 vote was almost the same as in 2006, with 55% rejecting the measure.
I suspect they were wrong because they took the results of the vote seriously which suggests a wider opinion about abortion. If you give people 4 or 5 options to choose from, the reactions will spread among these options. People don’t like extreme or irrational words. But in a binary up and down vote, it turns out that people are just pro-life or pro-choice, with very few of these.
PPS. North Dakota There was a similar referendum, with a similar result.