Voters must scour political information for accuracy

FACULTY Q&A

Voters can easily find endless information on political issues and candidates from various sources, from the internet to the media.

The challenge, however, is determining the accuracy of the information and why the content is being shared, said Arthur Lupia, professor emeritus Gerald R. Ford at the University of Michigan.

Lupia, who wrote the book “Uniformed: Why People Know So Little About Politics and What We Can Do About It”, examines how people make decisions when they lack information and how they manage complex information flows .

In this Q&A, he talks about the political environment and how voters seek information before heading to the polls.

Since 2015, when your book was published, is it easier or more difficult for people to learn more about politics?

Today, there are more ways than ever to learn about politics and politics. On the Internet, you can read specific laws, learn about candidates, engage with them on social media, watch legislative hearings, school board meetings, and more. It has never been easier than now to get this kind of information. At the same time, if a person never wants to read about politics, there are plenty of other things they can do with their time, including playing thousands of video games or watching the billions of videos available online. .

What types of information are people looking for?

Some people want to know the facts about policies so they know how to improve the quality of life for themselves, their families, and their communities. Some people want to know more about other people who care about the same things as them and to connect with them. Some people are more interested in learning how to defend certain points of view, with less interest in whether what they say is accurate. So to answer your question, some people are very interested in getting the most accurate information they can find, some are looking for information that supports their views, and many do a bit of both.

You teach political communication. How can people understand each other during a polarized election year?

In an election year, news channels and social media platforms tend to focus on controversial topics that people disagree on. These controversies attract viewers, which helps news and social media companies make money. But they aren’t always great at truly understanding others. I teach students the importance of listening, even when they really want to talk. Listening is important because you can learn more about the values ​​and concerns of others. Learning these things can create new ways to find common ground. When it comes to solving the real problems of a community, finding common ground generally produces better results than talking without listening. Students learn how to do it and it changes their lives, even in election years.

Communication can also be found through polls, as voters gain insight into an issue or candidate. But why should voters trust them?

There are great polls and bad polls. What I mean by that is that great polls are done by people who take great care to gauge all viewpoints and ask unbiased questions. The University of Michigan has an amazing survey research center that does a great job. There are also professional organizations such as Pew Research Center and Gallup Inc. that not only put out high quality polling information for everyone to see, but will also give you lots of information on how they organized the poll, so you can judge for yourself whether you like it or not. Big polls can tell us a lot. They can show us how and why people have different preferences. If you want to know if a survey is worthy of approval, check if it is transparent about its methodology. If they are, they give you reason to trust them. If they’re hiding this stuff, find someone else to trust.