The Journal of Politics

Original Articles

Misinformation and the Currency of Democratic Citizenship

James H. Kuklinskia1, Paul J. Quirka1, Jennifer Jerita1, David Schwiedera1 and Robert F. Richa1

a1 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Scholars have documented the deficiencies in political knowledge among American citizens. Another problem, misinformation, has received less attention. People are misinformed when they confidently hold wrong beliefs. We present evidence of misinformation about welfare and show that this misinformation acts as an obstacle to educating the public with correct facts. Moreover, widespread misinformation can lead to collective preferences that are far different from those that would exist if people were correctly informed. The misinformation phenomenon has implications for two currently influential scholarly literatures: the study of political heuristics and the study of elite persuasion and issue framing.

(Online publication March 22 1999)

(Received January 12 2000)