A study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research asked basic factual questions about politics. The kicker of this experiment was half of the people surveyed were given a tangible reward for the right answers. Gregory Huber said that when the basic factual questions were asked like “How old was Barrack Obama at the time of his election?” When there was a tangible incentive, the accuracy increased. The point that was brought up is that many times when people take surveys with no incentive, like the other half of this study, they are more likely to answer the questions in a way that reflect the views of their political party. Because when these findings are published, they want it to favor their party’s belief, it looks bad when ideas do not match policy. This could be negative for other party policies as well. It is almost a form of political cheer leading for their teams policy.
When you pay people, you find that the size of those differences between democrats and republicans is substantially smaller,” says Huber. After the study, it was found that about half of the gap between republicans and democrats went away. Huber thinks that many people are using surveys as a form of cheer-leading. They may answer questions with a false statement even if they know the truth, just to make their political side sound better. It has been found that people are not taking themselves too seriously when they take surveys. When people have an incentive, they tend to take themselves more seriously. These polls are not publicly displayed, so people do not feel too bad about dropping their team just to win a prize.
This brings up the question of how accurate polls are that we often reference. If people say a more accurate response for money, then they know they are reporting inaccurate responses in other polls. When there is not a reward at stake, people make a conscious effort to respond in the way they should, rather than the way they feel. Partisanship is very strong through the nation, in fact it has had our government shut down for the past week. That is why this study is so interesting. We stick with our parties until we are offered an incentive to speak our mind. This brings up the question of, what incentives does the partisan government need to start up again? Will they also be as easy to give up a party belief for their own, even though it might be on a blurred party line? Although this study suggests yes, probably not. Our nation is in a difficult position and its going to take a lot for anybody to make a choice out of their party lines now. It will have to be a very large Amazon gift card to stop partisanship during the current, seemingly never ending, government shutdown.
What does this say about our society?
Why are we more truthful with ourselves and others if we have an incentive?