Testing Our Quasi-Statistical Sense: The Effect of Media Use and Knowledge on the Accuracy of Public Opinion Perception and on Projection Process
41 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 9 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2012
Projection has been identified as a key process shaping our perception of public opinion. Although widely studied, projection research has been plagued by conceptualization, operationalization and methodological ambiguities. This study offers a more rigorous analysis that distinguishes between appropriate and false projection, building on a dataset comprised of 25 surveys conducted over a period of 10 years (N=11,313). Next, operating under the assumption that false projection is indeed biasing, we hypothesized that media use and political knowledge would reduce the errors it enters into public opinion estimations. Using a nested model, it was found that projection is a very persistent psychological tendency with little variance. Although media use and political knowledge contributed to a more accurate perception of public opinion they did not reduce projection. Instead, knowledge increased projection among moderates and had no effect among those holding more extreme ideology. Media use had no effect on projection. The findings are discussed in the context of the motivated reasoning model.
Keywords: projection, knowledge, media use, public opinion perception
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