Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

(Mis-)perceptions, information, and political polarization

Marino, Maria, Iacono, Roberto and Mollerstrom, Johanna (2023) (Mis-)perceptions, information, and political polarization. III Working Paper (90). International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

[img] Text (III-working-paper-90) - Published Version
Download (825kB)


Voters hold widespread misperceptions about society, which have been documented in numerous studies. Likewise, voters demonstrate increasing political polarization over policy preferences. Against this backdrop, it is intuitively appealing to think that information provision can help correct misperceptions and create common ground by enhancing the political conversation and bridging political divisiveness. We show, using a general population survey in the United States, that beliefs in the power of information to reduce polarization are indeed widespread. Additionally, we review the extensive literature on misperceptions. To investigate the empirical relationships between misperceptions, information, and political polarization, we exploit the fact that many studies investigate heterogeneities in misperceptions and/or in the reaction to information treatments. Our review shows that existing misperceptions often, but not always, appear to be associated with an increased sense of divisiveness in society; however, information provision is more likely to increase polarization than decrease it. The reason is that different societal groups exhibit differing reactions to truthful and accurate information, in ways that often strengthens, rather than mitigates, existing preference schisms. Thus, the intuitively appealing suggestion that information provision can serve as a powerful tool to reduce polarization is often proven false.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Authors
Divisions: International Inequalities Institute
Subjects: J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
JEL classification: C - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods > C9 - Design of Experiments > C90 - General
D - Microeconomics > D3 - Distribution > D31 - Personal Income, Wealth, and Their Distributions
D - Microeconomics > D7 - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making > D72 - Economic Models of Political Processes: Rent-Seeking, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
D - Microeconomics > D8 - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty > D83 - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief
D - Microeconomics > D9 - Intertemporal Choice and Growth > D91 - Intertemporal Consumer Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving
H - Public Economics > H2 - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue > H23 - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
P - Economic Systems > P1 - Capitalist Systems > P16 - Political Economy
Date Deposited: 26 May 2023 08:39
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2023 00:03

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics