University of California - Los Angeles
False, inflammatory stories that were designed to appeal to a liberal audience didn't generate the massive numbers of clicks or shares required to be lucrative via online ad networks. Some conservative content, however, did.
Half of the statements concerned benefits (for example, "Exercising on an empty stomach burns more calories"), and half of the statements concerned hazards ("An intoxicated passenger could partially open the exit door on a commercial jetliner, causing the cabin to depressurize and the oxygen masks to deploy").
All but two of the 16 statements were false. Participants also reported their political leanings by indicating their positions on a variety of politically charged issues.
Looking more closely at people's opinions on a variety of political topics, the researchers found that this was driven by participants' views on social issues, such as abortion and marriage for same-sex couples. Respondents' opinions about economic issues, such as tax cuts, did not predict how much they believed statements about hazards, Fessler said.
Previous research has shown that conservatives are more sensitive than liberals to threatening stimuli. Indeed, responses to threats are an important dimension of political orientation.
When real dangers lurk, liberals will more often suffer the consequences of disregarding accurate warnings. When real dangers are rare, conservatives will more often suffer the consequences of trying to avoid nonexistent threats, and will miss out on opportunities for productive innovation.