Misperceptions, Competition, and Support for Democracy: Are Meta-Perception Corrections Effective?

Jame Druckman
Date & Time Apr 20 2023 12:00 PM - 1:20 PM
Location Wallace Hall
Jamie Druckman, Northwestern University
Audience Restricted to Princeton graduate students, faculty, and fellows

A growing consensus suggests that an underlying cause of anti-democratic attitudes and support for partisan violence is that partisans misperceive the other side. That is, they vastly exaggerate the extent to which members of the other party are obstructionist, anti-democratic, and supportive of violence. When these misperceptions are corrected, citizens’ own beliefs moderate. Yet, what happens when misperception corrections compete with contrary information that reinforces the initial misperception? Such competition defines most democratic environments and can come in the form of questioning the validity of the correction or conflicting information. I hypothesize that such competition undermines the efficacy of corrections. I test my predictions with a survey experiment in the U.S. The results reveal that correcting misperceptions does not constitute a robust way to counter democratic backsliding among citizens; it is an ironic victim of competitive information environments. I discuss the implications and the need to address pressing questions such as the extent to which democratic stability rests on moral commitments or self-enforcing equilibria reached by instrumental actors.