Can we have a debate on Dunning-Kruger as it relates to politics?

I’m trying not to be an arrogant liberal asshole, but it hard. So I’ll just say it.

In my experience (not so much the conservatives on this board, they are a different breed. The kinds of conservatives I"m referring to generally aren’t drawn to debate boards like this) but many of the conservatives I meet in real life are really really dumb. Brainwashed, profoundly ignorant, wildly misinformed, zero critical thinking skills, etc. No, that is not an exaggeration. And I’m sure a lot of dopers know exactly what I’m talking about.

But most aren’t dumb in other areas of life. Ask them about anything unrelated to politics and they are sane, rational informed people. They take care of their health, pay their bills, work jobs, etc. But once politics comes up, they become dumber than shit.

But more than that, they think they are the smartest people out there, especially about politics. People who barely graduated high school 40 years ago who think they understand climate science better than the world’s best professors and scientists. People who mindlessly absorb spoon fed propaganda 16 hours a day who think they have excellent reasoning skills. People whose arguments generally fall apart with minor examination. People who are immune to facts but believe any lie they hear, as long as that lie tells them what they want to hear. How are these people not only so disconnected from reality, but so arrogant at the same time?

I spent some time on conspiracy theory boards. I will admit that I fell for a few conspiracy theories in the past, but to my knowledge I never acted like I see some of these conservatives act (in fact I rejected the theories when the evidence said they were BS). I also spent a good amount of time disproving conspiracy theories there using science (explaining why theories on the moon having a different density than we are told couldn’t possibly be true, stuff like that). But I didn’t see this behavior there. I really am only seeing it in politics.

So my point is that this is what I want to debate.

Why do a small but very vocal % of conservatives have such terrible critical thinking skills?

Why do they think they have the best? How do you have such low cognitive skills but believe you have the best?

Why does it only seem to apply to politics? I don’t think I see this behavior anywhere else. And to the people it does apply to, they are sane, rational, informed people in every other area of their lives.

The best I can come up with is that certain people (authoritarians mainly) have a deep seated need for the world to be a safe, consistent place so they invent a false, albeit simplistic narrative to make them feel that way. They aren’t reasoning to learn the truth, they are reasoning to feel safe in a confusing, scary world where they feel their sense of power and privilege is being taken away and they feel threatened by the growing creep of the ‘others’. So they invent a narrative that makes things simplistic, black and white, makes them the good guys and gives them easy to identify enemies. Then they invent and ignore evidence to support that narrative because they are emotionally invested in the narrative. That is all I can come up with.

And yeah I know I will get a ‘but both sides are equally bad’. But no, they aren’t. I don’t see this on the left in either the same intensity or numbers.

And I didn’t say all conservatives do this. But quite a lot do. Anyone who has actually spent time outside is probably going to know exactly the kind of conservative I’m talking about.

So what causes it? Is it really just authoritarianism? Or is there something else?

I was just sitting here thinking about the differences in what my conservative vs. liberal friends post on FB.

Conservatives tend to post videos of a veteran in a truck telling it to you straight, or sound bites of Democrats without context proving THEY do it too!! or borderline-or-outright conspiracy videos trying to show connections between things with only the flimsiest of evidence.

Liberals tend to post…wait for it…articles with real words, that you have to read. They are also more likely to add their own coherent comments when they post an article.

ETA again, I’ve also noticed that conservative media does a pretty good job of telling its audience what they should think and feel about things. Do maybe when you have stuff spoon-fed and get the information automatically knowing what you think because somebody’s already done it for you, it’s easy to feel like an expert. You never have to evaluate information and challenge anything you already think.

Some of us keep repeating that both sides do it, but that just doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

I have liberal friends and acquaintances who uncritically post on Facebook every anti-conservative/anti-Trump meme that they come across, regardless of how ludicrous it is. And to top it off, one of them is a nurse with 20+ years of experience, who is as anti-vaccine as you can get.

And on this very board, there are many liberals who–as far as I can tell–honestly and truly cannot comprehend why prohibiting certain purely cosmetic features on guns is a fool’s errand.

I have come across many liberals who cannot understand that artificially manipulating prices in the event of a disaster would backfire–they pat themselves on the back for being against “price gouging” and go on their way feeling proud of their virtue.

I think it boils down to insecurities (and that it causes authoritarianism rather than the other way around). It’s a coping mechanism for self loathing. I mean, it’s not an exclusively American problem - you have the same kind of idjits in UKIP or the Front National, though I have to admit we have fewer folks who bray that global warming is a hoax or the Earth is flat.

Isaac Aasimov once wrote :

A refrain you regularly hear from poor, uninformed, non-curious, poorly educated folks when challenged on their shit opinions is “you think you’re better than me ?!”. And the truth is, yeah, we kinda do, but that’s besides the point. The point is that *they *think you’re better than them. They know that, be it by chance or work or money or whatever, you simply know more shit than they do, understand more in more nuanced ways ; and **rather than try and work and lift themselves up to that level they feel inferior to, **they instead choose to consider, or make believe they consider this level irrelevant.

Some do it by taking refuge in some holy book, or by believing in vast conspiracies that make everything you know and say suspect, or by attributing more value to emotions or family values or dumb symbols… All to undermine the simple truth that an uninformed opinion just isn’t as good as a knowledgeable one. That intuition and gut feeling isn’t as good as hard work and research. Which is absolutely not a statement on the value or merit of the persons having the two opinions, mind you, but there you go. FWIW, I think nationalism is the same thing, stems from the same intellectually lazy notion of “I’m shit and I am doing nothing of value whatsoever with my life, nothing I am proud of anyway ; therefore I will instead be proud of where I’m *from *and look down on the people who aren’t”.

But do note that Aasimov is right that it’s a matter of culture as a whole. It’s not just a right-wing thing. We shouldn’t be asking DeNiro or Kanye about their opinions on global warming or trade policies or the effectiveness of vaccination. They’re just as pig ignorant about them as Bubba from deep Kentucky. Yet somehow their shit opinion make the news.
And the reason they’re so vocal about their shit opinions is just as much of a coping mechanism : they’re not trying to convince you. They’re trying to convince themselves and each other (and, in turn, are comforted by all the other insecure assholes who bray the same as they do). They do it all the louder that their own belief is shaky, much in the way that a new convert is typically the most insufferable proselyte.

Of course both sides do it. People don’t look critically at people who agree with them, so observation bias prevails, you mostly notice the dumb conslibservaitives that disagree with you.

OP, I basically agree with you, and some of those same points are being made in the Elections thread on “The Trump Era”. One point of discussion is that Trump currently has about a 43% approval rating. OK, but America’s allies have all been insulted and alienated, no one trusts the US at this point, the world may be heading into a global economic recession because of escalating trade wars, taking the US along with it as one of the first and biggest victims, climate change is being ignored despite being a growing problem, and global stability is threatened with the mismanagement of relations with Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea, among others. Meanwhile the administration is rife with corruption and self-enrichment, incompetence, and malfeasance everywhere you look.

So 43% think this is just fine, but 100% of Americans are being lied to on a daily basis, and constant lying has become the Orwellian new norm. So that 43% has to either be stupid, uninformed, gullible, or narrowly and unhealthily focused on some very specific aspect of their economic well-being to the detriment of everything else. Certainly if you asked them to talk about the substance of policy issues, just as you say, they would turn out to be spectacularly uninformed.

So how come these people can be successful in their personal lives, have savings and nice houses and decent families, yet be ignorant troglodytes when it comes to politics and voting inclinations? Based on people I know who are like that, it seems to be because those other things are actually pretty easy. But it takes real intellectual curiosity to try to understand how the world works in terms of the interactions of society, business, and government, and it’s very easy to just fall into the narrow-minded rut of believing that the way it works can all be extrapolated from your own personal experience. If you had to deal with certain minorities and found them to be crooked and lazy, if you made investments in a small business and found it made you wealthy, then without intellectual curiosity you simply develop a great love for all the things that happened to have worked for you and a hatred for all the things that didn’t. One of my lifelong friends is a kind and loving family man and good friend, and is also a staunch conservative and quite the anti-immigration bigot. And his beliefs are all based on anecdotes, not real statistical facts, which are the sorts of academic things he doesn’t much care about.

I tend to think in bullet points, so here goes:

  1. I agree with the OP that there is somewhat more Dunning-Kruger-ism among cons than libs (we’ll just call it DK from now on for short.)

  2. When some people say “both sides do it,” it doesn’t necessarily mean both sides do it in equal proportions - I’d guesstimate about 60% of cons to be DKers and 40% of libs to be so - however, there is a significant number enough on both sides that it’s a piece of cake to take a few examples from both sides and think that both sides do it equally.

  3. One reason I think is that liberal bias (yes - liberal bias - just bear with me for a moment; don’t block yet) in media has caused a lot of conservatives to reject the whole enchilada. Most of what the liberal media reports is true, but heavily biased (for instance, CNN ran a number of stories about two-year old toddlers denied medical care because of Trump’s Muslim ban. Is that story true? No doubt. But the story was selected, and emphasized, and run over and over again, for the express purpose of making Trump look bad. Imagine if Fox News ran endless coverage of Lewinsky and the blue dress, etc. - which I’m sure no doubt it did - sure, it’s factual, but it screams bias.)

  4. The fields of science and higher education tend to be dominated by liberals these days, which creates a spiral of death whereby cons are ejected more and more and less and less willing to enter those fields.

  5. In politics, Americans love simple solutions, and conservatives like simple, clear, straightforward explanations and solutions - even if they’re not necessarily correct. This is a prime cause of DK-ism. (To be fair, there are, again, no shortage of liberals who are that way too: “Men are pigs, homeschoolers are ignorant sheltered kids with no social skills, Iraq was a war for oil, ‘Bush lied, people died,’ anyone who opposes Obama must be a racist, etc.”)

  6. There was always a great deal of DK-ism, but now social media fans the flames and also gives everyone a microphone.

  7. People don’t like being condescended to, and it is natural to reject someone who smugly claims to know better than you do, even if that person is right. It’s often not the facts that are being rejected, but the smugness.

There is confirmation bias.

But I think ‘both sides do it’ is a lazy answer that people throw out to appear above the partisan fray, not a factually accurate statement. Its an easy answer for people who want to appear too mature to get wrapped up in politics. But it isn’t accurate.

On social media, conservatives share more fake news than liberals.

Political knowledge is hard to acquire because there is no feedback mechanism. You can have wrong political opinions and vote stupidly your whole life and never suffer any bad effects and vise versa.
The truth is the opposite of what the OP says. Republicans are more knowledgeableabout politics than Democrats.
It is hard to see the truth about politics because of cognitive bias. We tend to seek out smart people who agree with us and dumb people who disagree with us. Thus we think that our side is smarter than the other side. If people really want to know politics they should seek out people who disagree with them who are smarter than they are and not just pretend that some idiot on twitter is representative of the other side.

If there were 100 imbeciles on the right for every 1 on the left that would fly. But it’s a significant percentage on both sides and crying “Your guys are dumber than our guys” doesn’t fly. On top of that the liberals and all their high falutin’ college degrees should be ashamed that so many of them are idiots. The conservatives at least have the excuse that they courted these morons. Both sides do it, a lot, I think the majority of voters are knuckleheads and hypocrites who have just picked a side.

The problem is that all that political and economical knowledge did not stop Republicans for voting for Trump, and then to not confront Trump in many issues like his trade war.

OTOH, that poll from PEW also shows that what I noted before is accurate, there are a lot of Democrats that are not fully aware about how conservative Republicans are (so conservative that even Reagan nowadays would had trouble getting elected) and it explains a lot of the apathy that also leads to not showing up to vote.

The problem with these polls is that it really comes down to what questions are asked. Both sides will tend to respond with whatever makes their side look best. I could counter with all the polls that say that Republicans think Obama was born in Kenya, that there were millions of illegal votes or the origin of life.. But that wouldn’t prove anything either, (and if you check my posting history I have pointed this out in threads based on such polls). So if a poll happens to have more questions about facts that make Republicans look good, or are included in their talking points, Republicans will score better.

You think the Pew polls were biased?

Not a bad estimate. When it comes to matters of science/medicine, I’d place the DK impact at closer to 2/3ds from right-wingers, 1/3 from the left.

I think this has been exaggerated in the past by conservatives who find facts themselves to be “biased”, but unfortunately it’s gotten more true, to the point where major media view themselves as part of the Trump Resistance. ABC News (or more specifically, their website) is heavily in the tank on this score (example: their story today on Trump’s reversal of the family separation thing was headlined not on that news , but featured a dumb inflammatory line cherry-picked from his statement).

Avoiding the news altogether is often preferable to having to listen to the Chief Dumbass and his enablers on the one hand, or the oppo screaming “TRUMMMPPPP!”

Noting that it is futile and often counterproductive to rant about how stoopid the other side is, one practical solution might ultimately be useful is to mandate continuing coursework in schools on critical thinking skills. A significant reduction in the number of people who readily believe nonsense would be refreshing, even if it isn’t directly aimed at depolarizing the conversation.

That might be true if the questions were about myths that each party believes. The questions were factual like which party supports what position, which party does FDR belong to, and what party is associated with the donkey symbol.

And once again, knowing that what was known was no good in realizing where the Republicans are getting into in recent years with their radicalism. And that goes not only for many Democrats, but for many moderate Republicans.

Not intentionally biased, but rather that it is difficult to come up with questions that don’t lean one way or the other. For example the republicans got it right about the unemployment rate because the high unemployment rate makes Dems look bad, but if you ask about the low inflation rate, or that most of the money is spent on defense, Dems get it right most often.

The difference in accuracy that you are crowing about is comes down to an average of 1.2 questions out of 17. So if I imagine that in the universe of political questions 2/5 of questions will lean Democrat, 2/5 lean Republican, and 1/5 are neutral, a random selection of 17 questions is going to on average lean one way or the other by a little over 2 questions. So basically this result is well within the bounds of noise.

Someone who looked at a different set of 17 questions chosen in an equally unbiased way could have come up with questions that more Dems. tended to get right.

@Buck Godot,

Thanks for elaborating your thoughts on the matter. It’s certainly something I’ll take into consideration when looking at these sort of polls in the future. Given your above statement that “this result is well within the bounds of noise”, do you disagree with this portion of the OP’s claim:

Is it your impression that misinformed / ignorant people are found in largely similar numbers on both sides of the political aisle?

Another factor is that, as loathe as conservatives may be to admit it, many of them bought into the “feelings trump facts” and “there is no such thing as objective reality” moral relativism that swept America in recent times just as hard, if not harder, than liberals. Hence DKs on the right.

Is this relating your anecdotal experience or are you making a claim to a statistical fact here?