Political Science

Political Rumors: Why We Accept Misinformation and How to Fight It

Why debunked political rumors persist and how to combat them

Hardcover

Price:
$29.95/£25.00
ISBN:
Published (US):
Aug 15, 2023
Published (UK):
Oct 10, 2023
2023
Pages:
240
Size:
6.12 x 9.25 in.
Illus:
26 b/w illus. 19 tables.
Buy This

Political rumors and misinformation pollute the political landscape. This is not a recent phenomenon; before the currently rampant and unfounded rumors about a stolen election and vote-rigging, there were other rumors that continued to spread even after they were thoroughly debunked, including doubts about 9/11 (an “inside job”) and the furor over President Obama’s birthplace and birth certificate. If misinformation crowds out the truth, how can Americans communicate with one another about important issues? In this book, Adam Berinsky examines why political rumors exist and persist despite their unsubstantiated and refuted claims, who is most likely to believe them, and how to combat them.

Drawing on original survey and experimental data, Berinsky shows that a tendency toward conspiratorial thinking and vehement partisan attachment fuel belief in rumors. Yet the reach of rumors is wide, and Berinsky argues that in fighting misinformation, it is as important to target the undecided and the uncertain as it is the true believers. We’re all vulnerable to misinformation, and public skepticism about the veracity of political facts is damaging to democracy. Moreover, in a world where most people simply don’t pay attention to politics, political leaders are often guilty of disseminating false information—and failing to correct it when it is proven wrong. Berinsky suggests that we should focus on the messenger as much as the message of rumors. Just as important as how misinformation is debunked is who does the debunking.