Loyalty Matters A Lot; Facts, Not So Much

The Washington Post took two polls during periods of high gas prices, one in 2006 and one in 2012. The question was the same: is there anything the president reasonably can do to reduce gas prices? The key factor is that the presidents were different. In 2006 when Bush was in office, only 47% of Republicans said he could; when it came to Obama, 65% said he could (but doesn’t, because he’s evil). Lest you think that people simply have more faith in Obama’s skills, Democrats responded the opposite way: 73% said Bush could’ve lowered the gas prices in 2006 (but didn’t, because he’s evil), but only 33% think Obama could (or else he would’ve, because he’s nice). Meanwhile in the real world, neither the president nor anyone except OPEC can influence oil prices, since they are global.


Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan points out that Republicans are running in 2012 the same guy Democrats ran in 2004: "a flip-flopping, out-of-touch elitist from Massachusetts."


What it boils down to is that Democrat or Republican, when your guy’s in office and bad stuff happens, it’s not his fault; when the other team’s guy is in office, it’s all his fault — facts be damned. NPR has some commentary on this which explains the situation via cognitive dissonance, the feeling you get when you find out your good friend Mike got fired: since he’s your good friend, and since you don’t associate with incompetent people, clearly his boss made some mistake or was out to get him.

In order to get rid of the discomfort of knowing you’re friends with an unsavory character or voted for the wrong guy, you have to either change your loyalties (meaning, drop the friend or politician), or rationalize the facts away. It turns out the latter is a lot easier — probably because we see loyalty as a pillar of the morality on which society is built. With society comes friends and happiness, but the facts never hugged you. And so, loyalty is greater than truth, simply to avoid being forever alone.

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From The Washington Post, via NPR

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