Republicans fall for fake news more than Democrats do, according to Rand study

Republicans are more likely to buy fake news than Democrats, says a new Rand study, as reported by Fast Company. It's not that "magical thinkers" and those who lack strong critical-thinking skills don't also exist on the Left, but fake news happens to appeal more to those on the Right. And a big part of why Republicans are more susceptible to "truth decay" — a "diminishing role of facts" in American life — seems to be correlated with math and science literacy vs. one's belief in "magical reasoning" (aka "alternative facts") and religion.

From Fast Company:

The researchers surveyed 1,333 Americans from a carefully balanced set of demographic groups from February 26 through March 13, 2019. …

RAND sat out to find what kinds of cognitive bias and reasoning functionality were most reliably associated with susceptibility to misinformation in different kinds of people.

RAND screened for a number of bias types, including "ingroup bias," which refers to tendencies to lean toward beliefs favored by groups that share a "language, religion, or nationality."

The researchers also looked for connections between people's comfort level with numbers, or science, or "magical thinking" and the propensity for believing misinformation. As it turned out, Matthews tells me, it was the presence or absence of these reasoning abilities that provided the best predictors of people's susceptibility to misinformation.

It found–not surprisingly–that people who demonstrated more numeric and scientific literacy, and less magical reasoning, were less likely to swallow misinformation and disinformation. And it found these people collected in certain demographic and political groups.

The reasoning processes that are predictive of belief in things like "birtherism," "plandemic," and "trutherism" are not gained or lost suddenly with the support of a particular candidate or cause, the report stresses, but rather are "developed over an individual's lifetime and are all at least somewhat adaptive . . ." This, of course, points to the role of the education system to teach things like critical thinking and media literacy to children and adolescents early and often.

"Society needs to be better at developing informed and critically thinking citizens who can appropriately process the rapid media environments in which information consumers must now operate," the report authors write.