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Wonder which political party afflication would believe in vitamin D – March 2011

Clipped from: How cognitive biases affect our interpretation of political messages

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Different causes for diabetes were given to people.

Which cause of diabetes was believed was strongly determined by their political party.

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BMJ 2010; 340:c2276 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c2276 (Published 27 April 2010)

A recent study from the United States randomly allocated one of four versions of an authoritative news story about diabetes to people who had declared different political allegiances.3

Each story was identical except for how they described the cause of diabetes.
One said nothing about the cause (the control), whereas the three others cited
individual lifestyle choices, and
social determinants.
They were then asked whether they agreed with two statements on the reason people get diabetes, one specifying social determinants and the other genes.

Democrats were most likely to agree that social determinants were a cause, regardless of which version they read.
Independents reading the version where social determinants were the cause were more likely to agree with this explanation than those who read the control story, but the social determinants version had no effect on Republicans’ views.
Each group was then asked about collective actions to tackle diabetes, such as restrictions on junk food. Democrats reading the social determinants version were significantly more likely than controls to support action but Republicans were less so. In a second US study, subjects were initially categorised on a conservative-liberal scale and then exposed to factually incorrect stories on the effect of US tax cuts and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq followed by an authoritative correction. If they sympathised with the initial message the correction either failed to change their misperception or actually reinforced it.4

References included

3. Gollust SE, Lantz PM, Ubel PA. The polarizing effect of news media messages about the social determinants of health. Am J Publ Health2009;99:2160-7. (Abstract/FREE Full text)
4. Nyhan B, Reifler J. When corrections fail: the persistence of political misperceptions. Polit Behav2010; doi:10.1007/s11109-010-9112-2.

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