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Misperceptions in Polarized Politics: The Role of Knowledge, Religiosity, and Media

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 June 2014

Michael A. Cacciatore
University of Georgia
Sara K. Yeo
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dietram A. Scheufele
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Michael A. Xenos
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Doo-Hun Choi
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dominique Brossard
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Amy B. Becker
Loyola University, Maryland
Elizabeth A. Corley
Arizona State University


Many Americans hold distorted views of elected officials and, as our study shows, the blame is due partly to our ideological biases and partly to mass media. Analyzing a nationally representative online survey, we corroborate recent research that found that one in five Americans still believe president Barack Obama is a Muslim and that almost seven in ten mistakenly think Sarah Palin, and not Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey, was the first to say “I can see Russia from my house.” Although race, political ideology, and “born-again” or evangelical Christian status were the primary drivers of misperceptions about Obama’s faith, media use had a more crucial role in predicting the more widespread misperception about Palin. Misattribution of the Fey quote to Palin was greatest among heavy viewers of traditional news media and late-night TV comedy, which is suggestive of the “lamestream media” effect often espoused by prominent Republican figures.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2014 

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