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‘It Isn’t What We Don’t Know that Gives Us Trouble, It’s What We Know that Ain’t So’: Misinformation and Democratic Politics

  • Jennifer Hochschild and Katherine Levine Einstein

Abstract

This article explores the dangers to the quality of democratic governance of those who are informed but disengaged and, especially, those who are engaged but use false ‘knowledge’. Poll data show the extent of Americans’ misinformation about, or disengagement with, climate change. The main responsibility for these problems lies with politicians, who have partisan incentives to help the disengaged become active, but also partisan incentives to keep the misinformed politically involved. Activity in accord with false ‘knowledge’ can slow needed responses to global warming and lead to concrete harm to individuals, communities and nations.

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Copyright

Footnotes

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Department of Government, Harvard University (email: hochschild@gov.harvard.edu); Department of Political Science, Boston University (email: kleinst@bu.edu). We thank Robert Goodin and two anonymous readers for their excellent advice on this article.

Footnotes

References

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Berinsky, Adam. 2012. Rumors, Truths, and Reality: A Study of Political Misinformation. Cambridge, MA: MIT. Available from http://web.mit.edu/berinsky/www/les/rumor.pdf, accessed 7 October 2014.
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