Ignorance is Bliss? Age, Misinformation, and Support for Women's Representation

Author Name Barry C. BURDEN (University of Wisconsin-Madison) / ONO Yoshikuni (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. July 2020 20-E-066
Research Project Research on Political Behavior and Decision Making: Searching for evidence-based solutions to political challenges in the economy and industry
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Most people overestimate how many women have been elected in Congress and state legislatures, but this misinformation reduces with age. Multivariate analysis of our original survey data confirms that young people are prone to overestimating how many seats are held by women, and this pattern is especially sharper among male respondents. In addition, a memory of being represented by a woman in the past tends to inflate overestimates further. Erroneous thinking among the young may produce an "ignorance is bliss" effect by reducing the apparent need to elect more women to office and raising levels of trust in government. In contrast, more realistic beliefs among older people makes the dominance of men in public office more apparent and actionable.

Published: Burden, C. Barry and Yoshikuni Ono, 2020. "Ignorance is bliss? Age, misinformation, and support for women’s representation," Public Opinion Quarterly, Volume 84, Issue 4, 838-859.