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Emily Thorson Talks to KQED About Policy Misperceptions

March 15, 2024


Emily Thorson

Emily Thorson

Americans famously hang on to false ideas about politics, even after being presented with the facts. Part of the problem, of course, is misinformation. But according to Emily Thorson, assistant professor of political science, people tend to assume that they already know how existing policies work…and they are often wrong. 

"When it comes to policies like Social Security or the national debt, misperceptions have a greater potential to affect attitudes for two reasons," says Thorson. "One: policies, especially longstanding policies, are often not as politicized. They're not as wrapped up in people's party identity. Republicans and Democrats both like Social Security," she says.

"The other reason is the knowledge base is just a lot smaller. People know less about TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) than they do about Joe Biden and so any additional piece of information, whether it's true or false, is going to have a bigger impact on their attitudes towards that policy."

Listen to the full interview with KQED, "Doing Democracy: What We Get Wrong About Political Misinformation."

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