Study: People with less political knowledge think they know a lot about politics

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People who know less about politics are more confident about their political knowledge, according to research published in the scientific journal Political Psychology. The new study found that this effect was exacerbated when partisan identities were activated.

“The Dunning-Kruger effect holds that individuals with little knowledge about a topic will be, paradoxically, the most confident that they know a lot about the topic. Knowledgeable individuals will also discount their knowledgeability,” explained study author Ian Anson, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“I became increasingly interested in the Dunning-Kruger effect after observing other scholars discuss the subject on Twitter in the run-up to the 2016 election. I follow a number of political psychologists who marveled at the social media pundit class’ seeming display of ‘Dunning-Krugerish tendencies’ in their bombastic coverage of the election.”

“Many of these scholars’ posts were assuredly somewhat tongue-in-cheek; after all, the idea that someone is ‘ignorant of their own ignorance’ is a pretty serious accusation when used in the political arena,” Anson told PsyPost. “At some point after the election, several individuals began referring to Trump’s presidency as the ‘Dunning-Kruger Presidency’, as Trump appears to opine incredibly confidently about topics he appears to know little about.”

“While scrolling through these kinds of references to the effect, I was struck with the realization that I had read few, if any, references to Dunning-Kruger phenomena in published political science literature. At that point I began to devise a method to apply the theory to the subject of political knowledgeability, while also confronting the paradigm of partisan motivated reasoning. The latter theory constitutes a central topic in my earlier research, and I was especially interested in whether the partisan mind is susceptible to overconfident self-appraisals of political knowledge.”

For his study, Anson examined 2,606 American adults using two online surveys.

He evaluated the knowledge of the participants by quizzing them regarding the number of years served by a senator, the name of the current Secretary of Energy, the party with more conservative positions regarding health care,…

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