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Research Article Open Access

The Dunning-Kruger Effect Based on Educational Attainment and Political Affiliation Concerning Trust and Perceived Accuracy of the Media


Belief in the accuracy of media sources and trust in media outlets has become a topic of great interest given the current political climate in the United States following the 2016 presidential election, and the emergence of so-called “fake news.” An understanding of how educational attainment may affect the level at which a person believes the media to be accurate and how much people trust the media is examined here, with the results connected to what is termed the Dunning-Kruger Effect (DKE) (Kruger & Dunning, 1999). A survey distributed in the months prior to the fall 2018 midterm elections collected data on political affiliation, level of education attained, trust in the media, and the perceived effectiveness and re-electability of United States President Donald Trump. Data were examined by educational attainment only, then by educational attainment of those indicating a political affiliation of Democrat, Republican, or Independent/Other. While some significant relationships emerged, overall, there was no indication of the DKE present in responses focused on the media. A further examination of question coupling was undertaken, which revealed that respondents with lower levels of education created illogical response couplings more frequently than respondents with higher education levels. Respondents that indicated they did not follow politics, were uninformed concerning politics, did not think that the media was accurate, and did not trust the media, were shown to construct definitive answers concerning questions that require knowledge of politics in the present. While no political affiliation was attached to the last response group, educational attainment was, which showed that those in lower attainment categories comprised at least two-thirds of the group respondents who constructed illogical or contradictory response couplings. Inattention while completing the survey may explain some of the effects, but the DKE does appear to be present in the results.

 Mitchel Stimers

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