Taylor Swift and political ignorance

Taylor Swift in concertTaylor Swift in concert
Taylor Swift. (Amy McKeon/Zuma Press/Newscom)

A recent Monmouth poll finds that 18% of Americans and 32% of Republicans believe there is a “a secret government effort for Taylor Swift to help Joe Biden win the presidential election.” The percentage of believers is highest among the 46% of Americans who have already heard of Swift’s conspiracy theory, and is especially high among Republicans who had already heard about it (44% of that subgroup said they believe such a secret effort exists.) As more Republicans learn about this conspiracy theory, others may come to believe it.

In recent weeks, some conservative activists and online “influencers” have promoted the absurd conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift’s relationship with Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce is actually an engineered “deep state” government “psyop” to help Biden win the election (presumably, Swift, grateful for the deal with Kelce and the resulting publicity, will support Biden in return). A large number of Republicans (though still a minority) now apparently believe it! In fairness, some of those who told Monmouth they believed in the existence of the “secret government effort” might have had some other kind of conspiracy in mind. But the one involving Kelce has had the widest circulation.

I won’t spend much time and effort refuting the Swift-Kelce conspiracy theory. Suffice it to say, Swift is a billionaire and the most popular celebrity in the world. He doesn’t need the help of Deep State Democrats either to find men to date or to generate publicity for his music. And if the White House wanted Swift to endorse Biden, it could probably achieve that goal simply by asking her. After all, she endorsed him in 2020, apparently getting nothing in return (though I suppose conspiracy theorists can argue that whoever dated back then was actually a member of the Deep State).

By itself, widespread belief in the Taylor Swift conspiracy theory probably doesn’t matter much. The outcome of the presidential elections will almost certainly not change. Nor is it likely to have a significant impact on government policy.

The problem is that the kind of gullibility on display here is also evident in many voters’ beliefs in a wide range of other conspiracy theories. THE Washington Post provides some examples in his story on the Monmouth poll:

  • An August 2022 YouGov poll after the Mar-a-Lago search showed that 38% of Republicans believed the FBI had stored evidence there. Only 23% disagree with this proposal (another 39% are “not sure”).

  • A YouGov poll the following month showed that a majority of Republicans said it was at least “probably true” that the FBI withheld classified documents.

  • A Suffolk University poll soon after January 6, 2021 showed that 58% of Donald Trump supporters said the Capitol riot was “mostly an Antifa-inspired attack involving only a few supporters of Trump.” There is no evidence of this.

  • A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll showed that 34% believe it is at least “probably true” that the FBI organized and encouraged the attack on the Capitol. (About half of that number believed there was “hard evidence” of this.)

  • A December YouGov poll showed that 42% of Republicans believe “many prominent Democrats” are involved in child sex trafficking rings, 35% believe mass shootings were faked to promote gun control and 28% believe the government used covid vaccines to implant microchips. in people.

  • The same poll showed that fully 60% of Republicans believe there is “a single group of people who secretly control events and jointly rule the world.” (Democratic support for the proposal was about half that: 28%).

  • And, of course, polls generally show that about 6 in 10 Republicans or more continue to believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, despite a complete lack of evidence more than three years later.

These are all examples of the gullibility of right-wing voters, none more significant than the continued widespread belief in Donald Trump’s “big lie” about the 2020 election. But there are also many left-wing examples of widespread ignorance and belief in misinformation . Notable cases include 9/11 “trutherism” (disproportionately embraced by leftists) and the belief that “Jews” were at least partly responsible for the 2008 financial crisis (much more common among Democrats than among the Republicans). Overall, it seems that the left and the right are more or less equally susceptible to conspiracy. Both tend to be more open to conspiracy theories that reinforce their pre-existing views than those that counter them.

As I have explained before (e.g. here, here and here), this is part of the more general problem of “rational ignorance” and voter bias. Because there is so little chance that a vote will influence an election outcome, most voters have little incentive to spend more than minimal time learning about political issues. Their ignorance makes them more susceptible to conspiracy theories and other misinformation.

This problem is further exacerbated by the lack of incentive to objectively evaluate whatever information voters learn. When considering political information, many voters act not as objective truth-seekers, but as “political fans” who tend to overvalue any claims that are consistent with their pre-existing opinions and downplay or ignore those that conflict with them. Just as sports fans tend to be biased in favor of their favorite team, political fans are biased in favor of their favorite party, ideology and leaders – and against their rivals.

At this moment in history, I think political ignorance and right-wing prejudice are greater threats than those on the other side of the political spectrum. In recent years, the lies and disinformation spread by Trump and his supporters – particularly the Big Lie – have had a greater impact than their left-wing counterparts. But whether you agree with me on this or not, it’s important to recognize the enormous scope of the problem – and the fact that it’s not limited to one side of the political spectrum.

Recognizing the problem cannot, in itself, solve it. But it’s at least a step in the right direction. In this recent article and my book I consider a variety of potential ways to mitigate political ignorance and prejudice Democracy and political ignorance.

UPDATE: I’ve made small additions to this post.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *