During the late 1800s when the renowned scientist Louis Pasteur was trying to overturn the medical community’s deadly belief that germs are not communicable, he wrote: “The greatest aberration of the mind is to believe a thing to be, because we desire it.” The results of a scientific survey conducted just after the 2020 presidential election show that voters from across the political spectrum have failed to heed that warning.
The survey, commissioned by Just Facts, reveals that the vast bulk of voters have embraced false and harmful dogmas that accord with their political views. This is a typical consequence of confirmation bias, the human tendency to reflexively accept anything that accords with one’s preexisting beliefs and ignore or twist everything that defies them.
While most polls measure public opinion, this annual scientific survey measures voters’ perceptions of issues that can have major impacts on their lives. This year’s survey used an entirely new set of questions that addressed the topics of Covid-19, income, poverty, racial disparities, global warming, drug overdoses, life expectancy, pollution, and the national debt.
Some illuminating examples of the misconceptions held by voters with differing political preferences include the following:
- 76% of Trump voters think that the average income of middle-income households fell during the Obama administration. In reality, their inflation-adjusted average income rose by $5,300 during this period.
- 88% of Biden voters think that police are more likely to use lethal force when arresting black people than white people. In reality, police are 42% less likely to use lethal force when arresting blacks than whites.
The survey also found that a considerable portion of Trump voters have adopted some progressive fallacies spread by the media. For instance, 38% of Trump voters (and 86% of Biden voters) think that the number of strong-to-violent tornadoes in the U.S. has generally increased since the 1950s. In reality, they have slightly decreased.
That disconnect between fact and perception accords with numerous reports that link tornadoes and other extreme weather events to global warming, even though such events have occurred at a roughly level pace for as far back in time as reliable data extends. This suggests that progressive powerhouses like media titans, big tech corporations, and educational institutions have enough reach and influence to mislead large numbers of people who are ideologically opposed to falsehoods they propagate.
The survey was comprised of 21 questions posed to U.S. residents who regularly vote. It was conducted just after the 2020 presidential election by Triton Polling & Research, an academic research firm that applied scientific survey methods to optimize accuracy.
Results for All Voters
For each question, voters were offered a selection of two or more answers, one of which was true. Voters also had the opportunity to say they were unsure.
On average, voters gave the correct answer 38% of the time, gave an incorrect answer 51% of the time, and said they were unsure 10% of the time.
A majority of voters gave the correct answer to only 4 of the 21 questions.
Results by Ideology of Falsehood
Among questions in which the wrong answers accorded with partisan agendas, an average of 57% of answers were liberally misinformed, while 28% were conservatively misinformed. In other words, voters were twice as likely to believe certain progressive myths than conservative ones.
For all 10 of the questions in which the electorate was most deluded, the wrong answers they gave concurred with progressive narratives propagated by the media. Moreover, the false answers they gave were often far removed from reality, not just slightly mistaken. For example, 66% of voters thought that doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would raise the average income of families in poverty by 25% or more. The real figure is about 1%.
Results by Politics, Age, and Gender
The survey also recorded voters’ ages, genders and who they voted for in the presidential election. This allows the survey to pinpoint the segments of society that are most and least informed about specific issues. The sample size of third-party voters were too small to produce meaningful data.
The results show deep partisan and demographic divides, with different groups being more or less knowledgeable depending upon the questions.
On average, the rates at which voters gave false answers varied from 61% for Biden voters to 42% for Trump voters. From worst to best, the false answer rates for the various groups are as follows:
- 61% for Biden voters
- 56% for 18- to 34-year olds
- 53% for females
- 51% for 35- to 64-year olds
- 51% for 65+ year olds
- 49% for males
- 42% for Trump voters
All of the questions, the correct answers, and the full survey results and methodologies are detailed here.