Misinformation has a Republican bias. The question is: why?


GOP misinformation campaign


Republicans and president Trump have been engaging in full-blown misinformation campaigns for years now – everything from crowd-sizes at Trump speeches to illegal immigrants voting to promises of universal coverage and rhetoric around a stronger healthcare amidst dropping numbers of insured. No question, building a policy argument substantially based on blatant lies is intentional GOP electoral strategy. And, it has massive effects, in that likely Republican voters readily believe the misinformation spread by the Republican Party. The surprising element: Not only Republicans have internalized the GOP misinformation campaign, so have a sizable chunk of Democrats. Let's look at the data (this is based on a slightly under-powered PredictWise poll, N=600; 03/27/2019; full data here; Methods and validation here).


Republican bias of misinformation: immigration and healthcare


First up immigration. Only 16% of all likely 2020 voters know that there are less undocumented immigrants in the US than 2009, 79% believe that the number of immigrants has stayed the same, or even increased (64%). Among Democrats, only 26% know that the number of illegal immigrants has declined, with 61% (!!) believing the number has increased.

Second, health insurance: A good chunk of overall voters believe that the number of uninsured decreased or stayed the same during Trump's presidency (54%), while of course it has gone up. Among Republicans, the vast majority believes the number of insured to have at least remained the same, with 31% (!!) believing the number has gone down, not up. Again, numbers are not so dissimilar for Democrats: 45% believe that the number of insured has at least remained the same, with 23%, almost a quarter of all Democrats, wrongfully believing the number has gone up.

 


Republican bias of misinformation: entitlement spending and gun violence


The data looks similar when it comes to entitlement spending. Only 20% of all voters know that more Federal money is spent on the old, as opposed to on poor, in absolute terms. Among Republicans, 71% believe that the poor receive at least as much Federal spending as the elderly, with 47%, almost half of all Republicans, wrongfully believing that the poor receive more Federal spending than the elderly. Again, a majority of Democrats is wrongfully convinced that the poor receive at least as much Federal spending than the elderly (60%).

Lastly, most voters believe that car crashes kill at least as many Americans every year as gun violence (62%), although car crashes kill about 38,000 Americans a year, compared to 40,000 Americans being killed by gun violence, on average. Among Republicans, 75% believe that car crashes kill the same amount or more, with 35% believing that car crashes kill twice the amount of Americans compared to gun violence. Even among Democrats, a majority believes car crashes to be at least as fatal as gun violence (52%), with 40% believing that car crashes kill substantially more Americans than gun violence.


Republican bias of misinformation: even among Democrats?


Without a doubt, the Republican propaganda machine spread misinformation to the Republican base quickly and effectively. The big question to us: Why does Republican misinformation register among likely Democratic voters as well? Our working hypothesis: mainstream media does not do enough to combat the onslaught of strategic Republican misinformation campaigns.