Last month, PsyPost released an article examining the difference between “fact-speaking” and “belief-speaking” to analyze how Republicans and Democrats perceive honesty. Their study may offer some reasons as to why so many Republicans still believe in and follow Donald Trump after his many false claims.
30,000 False or Misleading Claims
According to an analysis fact checker conducted by The Washington Post, over the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, he made 30,573 false or misleading claims. The fact checker highlighted that on the day before the 2020 election, Trump made 503 false claims, potentially in an effort to win.
This number roughly represents 21 false or misleading statements a day, a markedly high number. The fact checker breakdown concluded that the average of false claims per day by Trump increased each year to a significant 39 false claims a day in his final year, seemingly denoting an increasing desperation to sway voters.
An In-Depth Analysis
A study by PsyPost released last month analyzed nearly 4 million tweets concerning political debates and discussions between US Congress members between 2011 and 2022. Their analysis aimed to understand and define the distinction between different perceptions of honesty.
Facts vs. Beliefs
In their article breaking down their analysis, they listed two components: “fact-speaking” and “belief-speaking.” In their definition, fact-speaking “relies on evidence and emphasizes veracity and seeks to communicate the actual state of the world,” and includes words like “determine”, “evidence” and “examine”. On the other hand, belief-speaking “focuses on the communicator’s apparent sincerity, but pays little attention to factual accuracy,” and covers words such as “feel”, “guess” and “seem”.
“Trump Cannot Be Considered as Honest”
They discerned that Trump would fall into the latter category, as, by this criteria, “Trump cannot be considered as honest.” The study also offered an example: “When Trump claimed that the crowds at his inauguration were the largest ever (they were not), his followers may have considered this claim to be honest because Trump seemed to sincerely believe the claim he was making.”
“An Extreme Form of Belief-Speaking”
Whilst noting that “healthy political debate involves both fact-speaking and belief-speaking,” they also highlighted that when considering Trump and his team’s past actions, there “are examples of an extreme form of belief-speaking that goes beyond the bounds of conventional democratic debate.”
“Truth Isn’t Truth”
The study also highlighted key components of Trump’s campaign that demonstrate the criteria of belief-speaking. One included senior Trump lawyer and advisor Rudy Giuliani’s statement that “truth isn’t truth,” made when trying to defend Trump’s hesitation in confirming an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller over fears that he would present a conflicting testimony.
PsyPost’s analysis found that for both Republicans and Democrats, fact-speaking and belief-speaking language increased after Trump’s victory in 2016, which could be owed to the increased talk of “false news” and concerns over the spread of misinformation.
Republicans and Reliability
Using the news rating agency NewsGuard to assess the trustworthiness of a domain, they also found that there was a significant “association between belief-speaking and low trustworthiness of sources for Republicans,” highlighting that “a 10% increase in belief-speaking was associated with a 12.8-point decrease in the quality of cited sources.”
An Unsurprising Conclusion
They concluded that this could be due to a “unique conception of honesty that emphasizes sincerity over accuracy, and which appears to be used by Republicans – but not Democrats – as a gateway to sharing low-quality information.”
Belief-Speaking and Negativity
The analysis surmised the reasons why Republicans may utilize this language more: “Belief-speaking is particularly associated with negative emotions. So if Republican politicians want to use negative emotional language to criticize Democrats, this goal might be more readily achieved by sharing low-quality information because high-quality domains tend to be less derogatory of the main parties.”
So Why Do So Many Still Believe Trump?
They further noted that the quality of information shared by Republican Congress members “may be linked to their convincing use of belief-speaking, which large segments of the public consider to be a marker of honesty.” Thus, the continued convincing use of belief-speak could be a key marker in why so many people still believe Trump.
In response to the article, many people took to social media to discuss their views. One person suggested that Trump is “giving [supporters] permission to lean into their worst instincts.” They continued: “He says, that’s ok. They want to hate people they are confused by, he says that’s OK. They want to hurt people they think are different. He again says, hey that’s OK. They want to act as awful as he does, and he likes being emulated.”
“Crudeness” vs. Honesty
Another person expressed their belief that people may take Trump’s blunt delivery as a sign of honesty: “Personally, I think there’s a lot of people who confuse crudeness with honesty. They think because Trump’s presentation isn’t slick, and usually has a level of coarseness to it, that he’s just being blunt with them. However, honesty is something very different.”
“His Feelings, Hatreds, Resentments”: Trump’s Emotional Honesty
One user argued that Trump’s supporters continue to believe him because they confuse “emotional honesty” with “factual honesty.” They wrote: “An emotionally honest person tells you exactly what they’re feeling about something, no matter what. They don’t sugar coat their opinions or tell little white lies, they don’t use caveats or qualifiers for their beliefs, nor do they make any attempt to hide their bigotries and hatreds. And Trump is clearly emotionally honest. His feelings, hatreds, resentments, insecurities- all of them are an open book, all the time.”
“He Makes No Attempt To Disguise or Modulate His Offensive Opinions”
They continued by highlighting how Trump’s continual expression of his biases may appeal to some as the truth: “Trump’s internal hatreds, obsessions, and insecurities are not facts, they are opinions. The people who say, “he tells it like it is”, mean, “he makes no attempt to disguise or modulate his offensive opinions”.”
Trump Like “Many Con Artists”
Another person went as far as to suggest that Trump is a crooked man who has used his beliefs to manipulate his supporters: “Like many con artists, he is very good at reading people and has studied how to manipulate people. It’s his life’s work.”
“Thinking Is Effort, and They’re Lazy”
One person attributed Trump fans’ willingness to believe him to laziness: “Many of them are predisposed to believe. They want to believe things, because blind belief doesn’t require thinking. Thinking is effort, and they’re lazy.”
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