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Testing Our Quasi‐Statistical Sense: News Use, Political Knowledge, and False Projection

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Although widely studied, previous research of projection in the context of public opinion did not incorporate the distinction between adequate and false projection developed in the cognitive studies: Adequate projection contributes to accurate perceptions of public opinion while false projection impairs it. The analysis presented in this study includes the above distinction, building on two case studies: (1) a dataset comprised of 25 surveys conducted over a period of 10 years (N = 11,313) and (2) a panel study of the 2013 Israeli general election. Relying on the assumptions of the Bayesian model, we tested if frequent news exposure and factual political knowledge reduce false projection. We found that false projection is a highly persistent psychological tendency with little variance. Although news exposure and political knowledge did contribute to a more accurate perception of public opinion, they did not reduce false projection. Conversely, knowledge increased false projection among moderates and had no effect in this respect among proponents of a more extreme ideology. These findings align better with the motivated reasoning model than with the Bayesian model.
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Keywords: motivated reasoning; news exposure; political knowledge; projection; public opinion perception

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2015

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