Watch what you’re reading online, it can lead to political cynicism

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A new study, titled “Exposure To Perceived False Information”, looks at how exposure to information that’s false or even perceived to be false, can lead to political cynicism, which can affect voter choices and turnout.

Kate Kenski from the University of Arizona conducted the research and shared her findings.

“What we wanted to know was whether or not just feeling you’ve been exposed to fake news or mis- or disinformation changed how you fought the system,” Kenski said.

Researchers asked people at two different points in time about their opinions on the political system and if people believed that politicians’ motives were self-centered. The results of the study concluded that people were more likely to be cynical about the political system if they perceived to have been exposed to fake news.

Kenski added that the study makes a clear distinction between cynical and skeptical people, as she believes skeptical people are always questioning and not drawing definitive conclusions about the political system.

“Cynicism is where you are really questioning the motives of all the actors involved,” Kenski said. “When it comes between principle and their own needs or wants, they’re going to go with their own needs or wants.”

Considering the influx of people who engage in social media and receive their news on social media, Kenski believes the public is open to more mis- and disinformation than ever before. Also, she believes many users call some facts “fake” solely if they disagree on the issue.

Cynicism can be created by many factors, according to Kenski: when people do not have factual information, when people are exposed to the closeness of the election over what the candidates value and when people question the system before any wrongdoing is brought up for debate.

“People need to feel confident in the political system in order to adhere to it and be mindful of it,” Kenski said.


Kate Kenski, University of Arizona Communications Professor

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