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Motivated Reasoning, Political Sophistication, and Associations between President Obama and Islam

Todd K. Hartmana1 and Adam J. Newmarka2

a1 Appalachian State University

a2 Appalachian State University

Abstract

Recent polls reveal that between 20% and 25% of Americans erroneously indicate that President Obama is a Muslim. In this article, we compare individuals' explicit responses on a survey about religion and politics with reaction time data from an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to investigate whether individuals truly associate Obama with Islam or are motivated reasoners who simply express negativity about the president when given the opportunity. Our results suggest that predispositions such as ideology, partisanship, and race affect how citizens feel about Obama, which in turn motivates them to accept misinformation about the president. We also find that these implicit associations increase the probability of stating that Obama is likely a Muslim. Interestingly, political sophistication does not appear to inoculate citizens from exposure to misinformation, as they exhibit the same IAT effect as less knowledgeable individuals.

Todd K. Hartman is an assistant professor in the department of government and justice studies at Appalachian State University. He can be reached at hartmantk@appstate.edu.

Adam J. Newmark is an associate professor in the department of government and justice studies at Appalachian State University. He can be reached at newmarkaj@appstate.edu.

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