Among NJ voters, truth and facts are no match for conspiracy theories
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A new Fairleigh Dickinson University/Public Mind Poll on conspiracy theories show that the more partisan New Jerseyans are, the more likely they are to buy into them.
FDU political scientist Dan Cassino cites one example of a strongly-held, unproven conspiracy theory: "A majority of people in New Jersey, 69 percent, think that Donald Trump is not releasing his tax returns because that they would show that he has close financial ties to political or business figures in Russia."
Cassino also says the conspiracy theory persists among New Jersey voters that former President Barack Obama is somehow hiding facts about his background and early life.
"Republicans become more likely to believe it than Democrats are."
He says some of these beliefs become stronger when one has more knowledge of the unproven theory.
"One of the things that we found very interesting was that people were under the impression that if we increase people's knowledge, if people just knew more, then they would be less likely to believe false things. And what we found is that when it comes to politics, that is just not the case."
Some non-political conspiracy theories seem to go the other way and are reduced by knowledge.
"We asked people about the belief that autism was caused by childhood vaccines. On those beliefs, more knowledge actually does make people more likely to know the truth, that there is no proven link between autism and childhood vaccines.
"Once politics gets in the way and people want to believe something very badly, they find a way to do it."
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.