REASONABLE MEN CAN DIFFER (COMMENT). Dick Weisfelder commented about the Feiler Faster Thesis that political misinformation gets processed just as rapidly as valid political information. I agree with this. I want to take issue with Dick about the article (see here) that he linked to as support for his comment. The article describes a report from WorldPublicOpinion.Org which asserts that: “Voters’ misinformation included beliefs at odds with the conclusions of government agencies, generally regarded as non-partisan, consisting of professional economists and scientists.” The organization then lists a number of propositions that it evidently considers to be certain, and treats any disagreement by the public with these propositions as resulting from “misinformation.” My problem is that I think that reasonable people and reasonable nonpartisan experts can and do hold different opinions about a lot of those propositions. Take one example. The organization says: “Though the Department of Commerce says that the US economy began to recover from recession in the third quarter of 2009 and has continued to grow since then, only 44% of voters thought the economy is starting to recover, while 55% thought the economy is still getting worse.” The premise of the article is to simplify very complicated issues with the aim of demonstrating that disagreement on those issues is not rational. Anyone who has doubts about whether the economy is recovering (perhaps including the Federal Reserve?) is misinformed.

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  1. Nick says:

    Isn’t unemployment the most visible issue to the public and simultaneously one of the last things that will show the effects of a recovery? Hardly seems like misinformation.

  2. Dick Weisfelder says:

    The Fed doesn’t deny that there has been steady growth (from a much lower base than before). The point it makes reinforces Nick’s view that individuals don’t perceive a real improvement until unemployment declines and their own situations improve. Hence Fed policies aim to speed up a slow, possibly faltering, recovery. That poll, like most, isn’t perfect, but it illustrates that problems of selective perception and cognitive dissonance have a considerable impact.

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