Who's to Say: How Partisan Politics Shape Our Beliefs

Fernandez, Daniel
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The purpose of this study is to examine how information sources influence people’s attitudes toward a particular topic. Research has shown that it is incredibly difficult to correct beliefs based on misinformation, even in the face of evidence. Rather than attempt to change preexisting beliefs, we will examine how changing the source of the information alters people's attitudes. The hypothesis of this study is that people will be more inclined to believe in a source that is aligned with their own political identities. Furthermore, people will be less likely to believe someone from an opposing political position, even if the person agrees with their opponent’s stated claim. An experimental study was conducted where participants were presented with an article that outlines the benefits of not denying people healthcare due to preexisting conditions. This subject was deliberately chosen because polling data suggests that this is an issue that the majority of Americans agree with, regardless of political affiliation. Three articles were presented to the participants at random; one from a liberal source, one from a conservative source, and one from a neutral source. The participants were then given a survey which measured their attitude toward the article, as well as demographic information. The participants were 134 Texas State students using the SONA pool of participants. The results of the experiment did not support our hypothesis. However, using several two-way ANOVA, there were several significances found at the .05 level. There was a statistically significant interaction between the condition (the random article) and the level of agreement. Specifically, the neutral article was the most agreeable across all groups. Another two-way ANOVA found that there was a statistically significant interaction between political affiliation and level of agreement. The interaction found that Democrats agreed with the article more than Republicans and those who identified as having “no affiliation”. We also found that the participants agreed with the article overall, regardless of the condition. The data we collected reinforces the idea that the majority of Americans agree with covering all individuals regardless of medical conditions, suggests that neutral sources lead to higher levels of agreeableness, and Democrats have a high level of agreeableness in regard to this particular issue.
politics, beliefs, misinformation, journalism, healthcare, Honors College
Fernandez, D. (2019). Who's to say: How partisan politics shape our beliefs (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.