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MIT Election Sciences Lab

  • MIT 77 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, MA, 02115 United States (map)


Roswell, Grassy Knolls, and Voter Fraud: Explaining erroneous perceptions of electoral malpractices

Pippa Norris, Holly Ann Garnett, and Max Grömping

Abstract: Why do many Americans believe that millions of fraudulent votes were cast when independent evidence refutes this claim? This study seeks to explain the reasons behind errors in public evaluations about electoral malpractices. It considers long-standing debates about the rational public and proposes that erroneous beliefs could potentially arise from citizen’s cognitive skills, partisan and media cues, and psychological predispositions. The study draws on public and expert perceptions of the fairness of the vote count and operationalizes the error gap as the difference between them. The results indicate that cognitive skills (higher levels of education and knowledge), as well as partisan and media cues (partisan strength and attention to politics in the media) are associated with reduced errors and more accurate judgments. On the other hand, populist, authoritarian and conspiratorialist attitudes are associated with greater error gaps between citizens and experts, in particular exaggerated perceptions of electoral malpractice.

Keywords: electoral integrity; public perceptions; perceptual error; expert judgment

Millikan Room, E53-482

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