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					The Effects of Semantics and Social Desirability in Correcting
                  the Obama Muslim Myth

Brendan Nyhan*, Jason Reifler§, Christopher Edelman, William Passo, Ashley Banks,
Emma Boston, Andrew Brown, Robert Carlson, KayAnne Gummersall, Elizabeth
Hawkins, Lucy McKinstry, Jonathan Mikkelson, Emily Roesing, Vikram Srinivasan,
Sarah Wakeman, Lindsey Wallace, and Rose Yan



                                    May 15, 2009




                 *Brendan Nyhan, Duke University (bjn3@duke.edu)
           §
           Jason Reifler, Georgia State University (poljar@langate.gsu.edu)
   Other co-authors were undergraduate students in Nyhan’s fall 2008 class at Duke.
                                           Abstract


In this paper, we address the question of how to counter political misperceptions, which

are often difficult or impossible to eradicate. One explanation for this difficulty is that

corrections frequently take the form of a negation (i.e. “Tom is not sick”), a construction

that may fail to reduce the association between the subject and the concept being negated

(Mayo et al. 2004). We apply this approach to the persistent rumor from the 2008

presidential campaign that Barack Obama is a Muslim, comparing the effectiveness of

what we call a misperception negation (“I am not and never have been of the Muslim

faith”) with what we call a corrective affirmation (“I am a Christian”), which should be

more effective. As expected, we find that the misperception negation was ineffective.

However, our hypothesis that the corrective affirmation would successfully reduce

misperceptions was only supported when a non-white experimental administrator was

present, suggesting a strong social desirability effect on the acceptance of corrective

information. In addition, three-way interactions between the corrective affirmation, race

of administrator, and party identification suggest that social desirability effects were more

prevalent among Republicans. When nonwhite administrators were absent, the corrective

affirmation not only failed to reduce Republican misperceptions but caused a backfire

effect in which GOP identifiers became more likely to believe Obama is Muslim and less

likely to believe he was being honest about his religion. We interpret this reaction as

being driven by Obama’s embrace of Christianity, which may provoke cognitive

dissonance among Republicans.
The proliferation of opinionated commentary on cable news channels, talk radio, and the

Internet has renewed interest in the topic of political misinformation. However, political

scientists have largely failed to distinguish between uninformed people who have no

factual knowledge of an issue or controversy and misinformed people who confidently

hold false or unsupported beliefs (Kuklinski et al. 2000: 792). As a result, while a vast

literature exists documenting the existence of factual ignorance among voters, less

evidence has been gathered on political misperceptions.

       In addition, little is known about how to counter misleading claims and correct

political misperceptions, which are often difficult or impossible to eradicate (Kuklinski et

al. 2000, Nyhan and Reifler 2008). One possible explanation for this difficulty is that

corrections frequently take the form of a negation (i.e. “Tom is not a criminal”), a

linguistic construction that can actually strengthen the association in a listener’s mind

between the subject and the concept being negated (Mayo et al. 2004). In this case, a

listener might subsequently associate Tom and criminality despite the presence of the

negation in the statement (“not”). As a result, a more effective correction might be “Tom

is an upstanding citizen,” which contradicts the misperception without reinforcing it.

       In this paper, we apply this approach to test different corrections of the false

rumor that Barack Obama is a Muslim, which dogged him during his 2008 presidential

campaign. Specifically, we report the results of an experiment conducted during the

campaign testing the effectiveness of Obama’s use of what we call a misperception

negation (“I am not and never have been of the Muslim faith”) and what we call a

corrective affirmation (“I am a Christian who has belonged to the same church for almost




                                             1
twenty years now”) against a control condition. The research above suggests that the

corrective affirmation treatment should be more effective.

       As expected, we find that the misperception negation treatment failed to reduce

misperceptions about Obama’s religion. However, two surprising findings emerged. First,

despite administering the experiment on computers, the corrective affirmation treatment

was only effective at reducing misperceptions in the presence of non-white experimental

administrators, suggesting a strong social desirability effect. In addition, three-way

interactions between the treatment, race of administrator, and party identification also

indicate that these social desirability effects were more prevalent among Republicans – a

finding that we validate using a novel measure of implicit associations between the

presidential candidates and religion. By contrast, when only white administrators were

present, we find that the corrective affirmation caused a backfire effect in which GOP

identifiers were more likely to believe that Obama is a Muslim and less likely to believe

that he was being honest about his religion. In the discussion section, we interpret these

divergent reactions as being driven by Obama’s embrace of Christianity in the corrective

affirmation condition, which seems to have provoked counterarguing among opposing

partisans when nonwhite administrators were not present.



Theoretical approach

Previous research

Political science still lacks significant knowledge about how to correct political

misperceptions. Only a handful of studies have been conducted that test the effects of

providing citizens with correct information. Kuklinski et al. (2000; study 1), Gilens


                                             2
(2001), and Sides and Citrin (2007) all provided participants in survey experiments with

correct factual information about an issue and then asked about their policy preferences

on the issue. Importantly, however, none of these manipulations made it clear that

subjects might have false beliefs or that a misperception existed among some members of

the public. Of the three studies, only Gilens found that correct factual information

changed participants’ reported issue preferences (for crime and foreign aid).

         In particular, only two experiments in political science have been attempted to

directly correct political misperceptions among the public.1 Study two of Kuklinski et al.

(2000) asked participants to guess the portion of the federal budget that is spent on

welfare (most participants overestimated the true value). Some were then told the correct

answer, which caused them to increase their support for social welfare spending.

However, the practical application of this finding is limited – voters are rarely asked for

their personal beliefs about a factual question and then authoritatively refuted. Nyhan and

Reifler (2008) extended this line of research by assessing the effectiveness of corrective

information embedded in a mock news article containing a potentially misleading

statement by a political figure. Disappointingly, they found that corrections typically

failed to reduce misperceptions among the ideological group most likely to hold them.

Even worse, Nyhan and Reifler actually found two cases of a “backfire” effect in which

corrections actually increased misperceptions among the targeted ideological group.




1
 There are, however, related literatures on rebutting rumors (e.g., Bordia, DiFonzo, and Schulz 2000, Bordia, DiFonzo,
Haines, and Chaseling 2005; DiFonzo and Bordia 2006), inoculating people against persuasion (e.g., Wood 2007,
Cialdini et al. n.d.), and refuting misleading advertising (e.g., Johar 1996, Petrova et al. n.d.).
                                                          3
The (in)effectiveness of negations?

Building on these studies, we seek to investigate whether the way in which a

misperception is corrected affects a citizen’s decision to accept or reject the correction.

This outcome may hinge on characteristics of the correction itself – a notion that is

supported by recent research on the processing of linguistic negations. Our study draws

on these findings to introduce and test two types of corrections.

          Specifically, negations have been found to be ineffective for unipolar descriptions

(Mayo et al. 2004). These are words that do not have clear opposites, such as the

adjectives “romantic” and “talented.” (Bipolar descriptions, on the other hand, have

obvious opposites, like “strong/weak” and “rich/poor.”) Mayo et al. proposed that when

people hear a negation, people process the “core supposition” first and then negate it by

applying a discounting tag such as “not.”2 Thus, when an individual hears the negation

“Tom is not a criminal,” he or she would first process the core supposition “Tom is a

criminal” and then negate it.3 As a result, the statement might unintentionally activate

associations between Tom and criminality, undermining the effect of the negation. Mayo

et al. find experimental support for this claim when testing negations of unipolar

descriptions for which a well-defined opposing schema does not exist (such as being a

criminal).4 By contrast, an obvious opposite schema exists for bipolar descriptions (“Tom




!
 It should be noted that Mayo et al.’s study was conducted in Hebrew, which exclusively uses the word “no” for
negations rather than semantic prefixes or suffixes. They note that this should make processing negations easier.
3
 See Just and Carpenter (1976) and Grant, Malaviya, and Sternthal (2004) for additional evidence that the core
supposition of a negation is processed first.
4
 By contrast, the opposing “fusion” model assumes that negations result in the direct activation of “a negation-
congruent schema” (Mayo et al. 2004: 435). Thus, “Tom is not sick” would be processed and encoded as “Tom is
healthy” without creating any association between Tom and sickness.
                                                           4
is sick”), which Mayo et al. find can be negated more effectively (“Tom is healthy”).5

          We apply this theoretical approach to examine one of the most troubling

misperceptions from the 2008 Presidential election—the persistent and widespread belief

that Barack Obama is or had been a Muslim. For instance, aA Pew Research Center poll

conducted in September 2008 found that approximately 13% of Americans believed

Obama was a Muslim (including 17% of Republicans) and 16% said they “had heard

different things” about his religion (2008).6 These misperceptions persisted into Obama’s

term – a March 2009 Pew poll found virtually identical results (2009).

          Based on the research described above, we argue that one reason that

misperceptions about Obama’s religion may be difficult to correct is the fact that Muslim

is a unipolar descriptor. While there are several conceivable opposites for the term, such

as Christian or atheist, none of them is a clear conceptual opposite. Group identifiers such

as Muslim do not have the same clearly defined conceptual opposites as the bipolar

adjectives used by Mayo et al. (tidy/messy, rich/poor, warm/cold).7 As such, negations

are likely to be ineffective in combating the Obama/Muslim misperception.

          To test this proposition, we present an experiment below contrasting what we call

a misperception negation (Obama “[is] not and [has] never been of the Muslim faith”)

and a corrective affirmation that contains the truth (Obama “[is] a Christian”) with a

control condition. Our goal is to determine whether corrective affirmations can dispel the

!
  Similarly, Gawronski et al. (2008) found that training subjects to negate stereotypes actually enhanced their
stereotypic associations. By contrast, repeatedly affirming counter-stereotypic associations was found to successfully
reduce the activation of negative stereotypes.
"
  Similarly, a Newsweek poll released on July 11, 2008 found that 12% of respondents believe Obama used a Koran for
swearing into the U.S. Senate. 26% believe he was raised as a Muslim, and an astounding 39% believe he attended
Islamic school as a child growing up in Indonesia (Newsweek 2008).
#
  Mayo et al. used a pre-test to determine which descriptors were unipolar and which were bipolar. Subjects were given
a list of single-word descriptors and asked to write down the opposite of each descriptor. Each descriptor was
categorized as unipolar if more than 80% of respondents could not think of an opposite or used a negation of the
original descriptor. We did not perform such a test for the Muslim descriptor.
                                                           5
misperception about Obama’s religion and if they are more effective than misperception

negations in doing so. As described below, Obama responded to this rumor using both the

corrective affirmation and misperception negation constructions, which allowed us to use

actual video of him speaking as manipulations. (See below for more detail on the

experimental design, including a description of the video that was used as a control.)

          However, the application of this theoretical framework may be complicated by the

realities of contemporary politics, particularly in the context of a presidential campaign.

The Mayo et al. experiments concerned descriptions of a hypothetical person, whereas

our research concerns political figures and issues on which participants have pre-existing

attitudes and beliefs. Numerous studies have found that people’s reactions to new

information are frequently influenced by their prior beliefs (e.g. Edwards and Smith

1996, Taber and Lodge 2006, Taber, Cann and Kuscova forthcoming). In some cases,

receiving new information that contradicts participants’ political views or factual beliefs

can backfire and strengthen participants’ previous beliefs (e.g. Redlawsk 2002, Nyhan

and Reifler 2008). Given that the presidential nominee of a major party is making the

correction during an election campaign, we expect subjects’ reactions to our correction

manipulations to be moderated by their partisanship.8

          We thus have two main hypotheses about the effect of corrections on

misperceptions:




8
  This is a similar approach to Nyhan and Reifler (2008), who find that participants’ reactions to their correction
manipulations were moderated by ideology.
                                                            6
       Hypothesis 1: Corrective affirmation

       Corrective affirmations will be more effective than negations in correcting the

       unipolar misperception that Obama is or was a Muslim.



       Hypothesis 2: Party affiliation (interaction)

       Party affiliation will moderate the effectiveness of efforts to correct the Obama

       Muslim misperception



To operationalize Hypothesis 2, we included a dummy variable for self-identification as a

Republican and an interaction between GOP affiliation and the experimental treatments.

We also included variables controlling for political knowledge and self-identification as

black or African American (hereafter black) to increase the precision of our estimates.



Race of administrator and social desirability

An extensive literature examines how social desirability concerns can influence the way

survey or experimental participants answer questions, particularly when the questions

relate to racial issues or the interviewer and respondent are of different races. In

particular, most studies have found that white respondents tend to “give more liberal or

pro-black opinions when the interviewer is black” (Hatchett and Schuman 1975/1976:

525) – an effect that is frequently interpreted as an attempt to express opinions that

conform to the interviewer’s perceived expectations or to societal norms. As a result,

great pains were taken to minimize social desirability effects in the present research.

Among other things, the experiment was conducted on computers, which have been


                                              7
found to increase self-reporting of socially sensitive behaviors (e.g. Erdman, Klein and

Greist 1983; Baker, Bradburn, and Johnson 1994; O’Reilly et al. 1994).9

          Despite these efforts, however, we discovered an unanticipated race of

administrator effect on subjects’ responses that is described in the results section below.

(Since the administrators did not directly interview participants, we prefer the term “race

of administrator” to “race of interviewer.”) Specifically, participant responses to the

correction treatments varied depending on whether one or more non-white experimental

administrators were present. This variation does not appear to be the result of differences

in participant characteristics – it seems quite unlikely that the moderate differences

between groups by race of administrator can account for the substantial variation in

treatment effects observed in the data.10

          The finding that the presence of non-white administrators11 affected the correction

of misperceptions is consistent with previous studies of the effects of race on the survey

response, which have found that even the “mere presence” of a person of a different race

can induce more socially desirable answers (Krysan 2003). In particular, one could

imagine that a question about the religion of a minority presidential candidate would be

particularly sensitive – participants may have been unwilling to report their beliefs

accurately if they felt that minority administrators would view them as intolerant.


!
  We also developed a new measure of implicit associations between the presidential candidates and religion (described
further below) in an attempt to circumvent social desirability problems.
10
   Specifically, individuals who participated in the experiment when nonwhite administrators were present were
somewhat less likely to describe themselves as black or African American (43% for white administrators versus 55%
for nonwhite; !2(1) = 3.44, p < .10) and had higher political knowledge scores (white administrators: M = 0.292, SE =
0.026; nonwhite: M = 0.385, SE = 0.037; p < .05). No statistically significant differences were observed between
groups for partisanship or GOP self-identification.
""
  In addition to being physically present, administrators gave participants instructions on how to complete the
experiment and answered participants’ questions while they were taking it. Sometimes the participants’ computer
screens were partially visible to administrators due to the constraints of the public locations at which the experiment
was conducted (see below for details on the administration of the experiment).
                                                            8
         While experimental administration duties were not randomly assigned, it is still

important to account for these effects in our data analysis. As such, we have three related

hypotheses about how the race of administrator effect will modify the hypotheses above:



         Hypothesis 3: Race of administrator (direct effect)

         Race of administrator will have a direct effect on participants’ reported

         perceptions of Obama’s religion.



         Hypothesis 4: Race of administrator (treatment interaction)

         Race of administrator will moderate the effects of the experimental manipulations

         that are intended to correct misperceptions about Obama’s religion.



         Hypothesis 5: Partisan social desirability (three-way interaction)

         The effect of partisanship on the correction treatment effects will be moderated by

         the presence or absence of a non-white administrator.



After splitting our data and estimating separate models by race of administrator, we

operationalize hypotheses 3-5 in the results section below by including a dummy variable

for the presence of at least one non-white experimental administrator as well as two- and

three-way interactions with the treatments and the GOP variable.12




!"
  One might speculate that the presence of nonwhite interviewers would have different effects depending on the racial
background of the participant. However, additional analyses (which are omitted but available upon request) show that
results are qualitatively similar when we exclude black respondents from the sample (which dramatically reduces
sample sizes). They are therefore retained in all subsequent analyses.
                                                          9
Experimental design and sample

The present experiment contrasts the effects of two different strategies for correcting

misperceptions. Specifically, we used a between-subjects design in which participants

were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions – two corrections and a

control group.13 The use of an experimental design mitigates possible concerns about

studying real-world political issues; despite participants’ differing preexisting beliefs and

opinions, the randomization process allows us to be confident that the resulting

differences in our dependent variables (measures of participants’ beliefs about Obama’s

religion) were caused by the experimental treatments.

          Participants in the experiment were recruited by experimental administrators who

set up tables in public areas of a university hospital in the southeast.14 For our

experiment, there were fifteen administrators, twelve of whom are white and three of

whom are non-white (one is African American, one is Indian-American, and one is Asian

American). The administrators typically worked in teams of two or three. After

consenting to participate, participants were provided with instructions by the

administrator and given a laptop computer and headphones to take the experiment. No

further interaction with the administrators occurred during the experiment unless a

participant approached an administrator to ask a question.




13
   The experiment also included an alternate correction treatment unrelated to the semantic processing argument we
focus on in this paper. This alternate treatment did not have significant effects. Because the effects were non-significant
and because the alternate treatment was unrelated to the arguments that are discussed here, we exclude data from
subjects in the alternate treatment condition. The primary experimental manipulation discussed in this paper thus
includes two experimental conditions and one control condition. However, it is technically a 3x2 experiment because
we also independently randomized the order of the third and fifth blocks of the IAT per Greenwald, McGhee, and
Schwartz (1998). Full details of this manipulation, which do not affect the results, are described in Appendix B.
14
   These tables were set up in lobby and hallway areas. The IRB protocol prohibited recruiting from clinical areas of the
hospital or patient waiting rooms.
                                                           10
          The experiment was programmed in the experimental psychology software

programs MediaLab and DirecRT, which made it possible to show actual video clips of

the 2008 presidential candidates to participants. After answering preliminary questions,

all participants viewed a series of video clips of both Senators McCain and Obama

describing various personal matters that were intended to disguise the purpose of the

experiment. Participants were then randomly assigned to one of three experimental

conditions (misperception negation, corrective affirmation, or the control group).

Participants in the misperception negation condition viewed a video in which Obama

negated the perception that he is a Muslim by saying, “I'm unequivocal about this -- I am

not and never have been of the Muslim faith.” Participants in the corrective affirmation

condition viewed a video of Obama instead affirming his Christian beliefs by saying “I

am a Christian who has belonged to the same church for almost twenty years now.”

Finally, control group members viewed a clip in which Obama discussed his decision to

run for president. After each video, a textual quotation from the clip was presented on

screen. (See Appendix A for transcripts and sources.) Each clip was 10-11 seconds long.

          After watching these videos, participants completed a series of questions about

their perceptions of each candidate’s religious preference as well as an implicit

association test measuring the extent to which the participant tended to associate Obama

with Islam (discussed further below). Participants received five dollars in compensation.

          The participants were a mix of patients, patients’ family members, general visitors

and hospital employees.15 A total of 230 participants were recruited. African-American

participants comprised 51% of our sample, while 34% identified themselves as white.


15
   We initially allowed university hospital employees to take part in the study but excluded them after three days due to
the concern that some might participate repeatedly to receive multiple incentive payments.
                                                           11
45% of participants considered themselves to be evangelical or born-again Christians

while 3% identified themselves as Muslim. Politically, 15% considered themselves to be

Republicans, 21% identified themselves as independents, and 64% considered themselves

to be Democrats.16 The highest level of educational attainment achieved by participants

was unusually diverse: 30% had a high school degree or less, 25% attended some college,

25% graduated from college, and 20% held a post-graduate degree.



Measures

Dependent variables

We measured participants’ perceptions of Obama’s religion using both explicit and

implicit measures. Our three measures of misperceptions were ReligionChoice, Ex-

Muslim, and Muslim, each of which was coded such that higher values indicate stronger

beliefs that Obama is or was a Muslim. ReligionChoice was created from a question

asking participants “Do you happen to know what Barack Obama’s religion is?”

Participants who chose “Christian” or “Muslim” were then asked a branching followup

question: “How devout of a Christian/Muslim do you think Obama is?” Responses were

recoded into a five-point scale.17 Muslim and Ex-Muslim are seven-point Likert agree-

disagree scales asking whether participants believed Obama “is a Muslim” and “used to

be a Muslim,” respectively.18 To measure participants’ subjective reactions to the


16
   Not surprisingly, African American participants largely self-identified as Democrats (68%). The partisan distribution
of the non-black sample was somewhat more balanced: 53% Democrats, 23% independent, and 20% Republican.
17
   “Extremely/very devout Muslim” (5), “Somewhat/not too/not at all devout Muslim” (4), “Don’t know” (3),
“Somewhat/not too/not at all devout Christian” (2), “Extremely/very devout Christian” (1). Three responses were
dropped due to response times of less than one second (indicating that subjects did not read the question) and thirteen
were dropped because they selected religions other than Christian and Muslim.
!"
  Six observations for Muslim and five observations for Ex-Muslim were dropped due to response times of less than
one second, leaving 224 and 225 valid observations, respectively. Don’t know responses were recoded as 4, the middle
response option (see Appendix A for exact wording).
                                                           12
corrections, we also asked about participants’ perceptions of Obama’s honesty about his

religion (Honest) and feelings toward him (Feelings). The variables were measured on a

1-7 scale and a 0-10 scale, respectively, where higher values represented more positive

perceptions. (See Appendix A for details.)



The candidate religion IAT

In order to obtain a measure of respondent associations toward Obama’s religion that is

less likely to suffer from social desirability bias, we created ReligionIAT, which measures

participant’s implicit attitudes about the relationship between Obama and the Muslim

religion using a version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The IAT was devised to

measure implicit attitudes that “are under the control of automatically activated

evaluation, without the performer’s awareness of that causation” (Greenwald et al. 1998:

1464). It measures implicit associations based on performance speed in the joint

classification of target concepts and attributes: the faster the participant completes the

classification, the easier the pairing is, and thus the stronger the relation is in the

participant’s mind. Conversely, the longer it takes a participant to complete the

classification, the weaker the relation is (Greenwald et al. 1998: 1466).19 Though the

most well-known IAT studies measure the association between race and positive or

negative attributes, the test can also be used to measure stereotypic associations between

individuals or groups and categories – for instance, between the male gender and the

disciplines of math and science (Nosek, Banaji, and Greenwald 2004).
!"
   For instance, in Experiment 1 of Greenwald et al.’s study, the target concepts were “flowers” and “insects” and the
attributes used were “pleasant” and “unpleasant.” After first classifying target words (e.g. daisy, fly, tulip) as flowers or
insects and attribute words (e.g. lucky, poison, grief) as either “pleasant” or “unpleasant,” subjects were asked to
alternately classify stimuli from both groups. The pairing of the target and attribute was then reversed and the process
repeated. The IAT compares response times based on the pairing of target and attribute. In this case, the pairings of
flower/unpleasant and insect/pleasant might slow reaction times relative to flower/pleasant and insect/unpleasant.
                                                            13
            In this case, we measured participant’s implicit associations about Obama’s

religion because their responses to explicit measures may be biased by self-presentational

motivations (Kim and Greenwald 1998). Since the IAT is an inherently relative measure

(i.e. it compares the strength of implicit associations), we constructed a candidate religion

IAT comparing Christian and Muslim associations for both Barack Obama and his

presidential rival John McCain. The IAT portion of the experiment was constructed in

accordance with the guidelines of Greenwald, Nosek, and Banaji (2003, 2005). (See

Appendix B for full details.) The stimuli we used in this experiment included similar-

looking headshots of John McCain and Barack Obama as well as words that were

stereotypically either Christian (Jesus, Bible, Easter, baptism, crucifix, and church) or

Muslim (Allah, Ramadan, Koran, Islam, Mecca, and mosque).20 We followed the

recommendations of Nosek et al. (2003) in excluding unreliable data from our analysis

and then computed participants’ IAT scores according to the recommendations of

Greenwald et al. (2003).21 While there is some evidence that contextual factors can

influence IAT scores (e.g. Deutsch and Gawronski 2009), responses to the IAT are far

less susceptible to social desirability bias than explicit measures. As such, ReligionIAT

provide a baseline measure of associations toward Obama’s religion that we will later

contrast with subjects’ self-reported beliefs. As with the explicit dependent variables




!"
     We tried to select words that we felt best represented the categories in question, could not be easily misconstrued,
and were approximately equal in length and number of syllables (Nosek et al. 2005).
21
   First, trials in which participants took longer than 10,000 milliseconds to respond to an item were
eliminated. We made this correction because it is likely that something unrelated to the experiment
distracted the participant. Second, all IAT results were dropped for participants who had latency times of
less than 300 milliseconds on more than 10% of the trials. This was done to exclude participants who
simply pressed one or both buttons quickly rather than reacting to stimuli. In addition, the IAT data of 31
participants was lost due to computer malfunctions and data recording errors.
                                                              14
above, ReligionIAT was constructed so that higher scores represent stronger implicit

associations between Obama and Islam.22



Results

Descriptive statistics

For the results presented below to be useful, it is important that misperceptions about

Obama’s religion exist in the experimental sample. In our case, we can contrast the

ReligionChoice dependent variable described above with the Sept. 14, 2008 Pew poll

question on which it was based. Levels of misperceptions were consistent in the two

samples – eleven percent of control respondents said Obama is a Muslim, compared with

twelve percent in the Pew poll – suggesting that our sample had broadly comparable

levels of misperceptions as the general public. Among subgroups of interest,

identification of Obama as a Muslim was greater among Republicans (Pew: 17 percent;

experimental controls: 25 percent) and lower among black respondents (Pew: four

percent; experimental controls: eight percent) in both samples.

         Before turning to statistical models, Figure 1 introduces the data by plotting the

distributions of the four variables measuring misperceptions about Obama’s religion

across all experimental conditions – ReligionChoice, Muslim, Ex-Muslim, and

ReligionIAT. (Each is coded so that higher values represent stronger misperceptions.)



                                                 [Figure 1]

!!
  It is important to note that, unlike the explicit dependent variables, ReligionIAT is not a linear measure of
misperceptions. There is no definitive answer to the question of which presidential candidate is “more”
Christian (and thus a negative score is not necessarily the “correct” answer). However, positive scores can
be interpreted as reflecting implicit misperceptions. "

                                                      15
We observe that approximately half of participants strongly disagree with the

misperception on the three explicit dependent variables, responding that Obama is a

practicing Christian (44%) and strongly disagreeing with the claims that Obama is or was

a Muslim (53% and 46%, respectively). Also, approximately one quarter of respondents

respond on each question that they either don’t know Obama’s religion or “neither agree

nor disagree” with the claims about him being Muslim, which places them in the middle

category for ReligionChoice (19%), Muslim (26%), and Ex-Muslim (29%). Finally, a

smaller group endorsed the misperception that Obama is or was a Muslim, which places

them above the midpoint on these dependent variables. The size of this group ranged

from 6% for ReligionChoice to 20% for Ex-Muslim (it was 15% for Muslim).

          In the case of the ReligionIAT variable, a positive score indicates that the

participant more strongly associated Obama with Muslim and McCain with Christian

than Obama with Christian and McCain with Muslim. Conversely, a negative score

indicates that the participant more strongly associated Obama with Christian and McCain

with Muslim. The average ReligionIAT score for all participants combined was slightly

positive,23 meaning that participants were slightly more likely to associate Barack Obama

with Muslim (and John McCain with Christian) than Barack Obama with Christian (and

John McCain with Muslim).24 Scores were approximately normally distributed (M =

0.068, SD = 0.578). There were, however, clear differences between subgroups that

correspond to our expectations and help to validate the measure. For instance, white

23
   The actual numerical value is meaningless except as a basis of comparison because it is simply the result of dividing
the average latency by the standard deviation. The slightly positive average ReligionIAT score means participants took
slightly longer to associate Obama with Christian than with Muslim.
24
   Hereafter, this tendency will just be described as associating Obama with Muslim, and the opposite tendency will be
described as associating Obama with Christian.
                                                          16
participants were more likely to associate Obama with Muslim (M = 0.246, SE = 0.067)

than were black participants (M = -0.056, SE = 0.056) in a t-test (p < .01).25 Similarly,

Republicans were more likely to associate Obama with Muslim (M = 0.467, SE = 0.104)

than were non-Republicans (M = 0.002, SE = 0.043; p < .01). Participants’ ReligionIAT

scores were also positively correlated with their explicit beliefs about Obama’s religion.

For instance, the ReligionChoice dependent variable asked participants what they

believed was Obama’s religion. Those who responded “Muslim” were somewhat more

likely to associate Obama with Muslim in the IAT (M = 0.457, SE = 0.216) than were

those who responded “Christian” (M = -0.025, SE = 0.045; p < .10). Similarly, subjects

who indicated greater agreement with the statements “Barack Obama is a Muslim”

(Muslim) and “Barack Obama used to be a Muslim” (Ex-Muslim) associated Obama more

with Muslim in the IAT (r = 0.16, p < 0.05; r = 0.12, p < .10, respectively).



Misperceptions by race of administrator

Having established the validity of our measures, we now use OLS statistical models to

estimate the effects of the correction treatments on participant (mis)perceptions about

Barack Obama’s religion. The primary explanatory variables of interest are the two

correction treatments: the misperception negation (“I am not and never have been of the

Muslim faith”) and the corrective affirmation (“I am a Christian”). (The control condition

is the baseline used for comparison.) Following Hypothesis 2, we include an indicator

variable for GOP self-identification and interactions between each treatment and the GOP

indicator. Finally, we include controls for political knowledge and for black participants.


25
   p-values for all t-tests are two-tailed and reflect an assumption of unequal variance between groups (approximate
degrees of freedom were calculated using Satterthwaite’s approximation).
                                                          17
(Due to the number of models reported and the difficulty of interpreting control variables

in a convenience sample, we focus on treatment variables in the discussion below.)

            To illustrate the apparent social desirability effect, Table 1 compares model

results for the three explicit dependent variables broken out by race of administrator.26



                                                         [Table 1]



Given the presence of interaction terms, the treatment variable coefficients can be

interpreted as the effect of the treatments when the other term (GOP) is equal to 0

(Brambor, Clark, and Golder 2006). In other words, the coefficients in the first two rows

of the table represent the effect of the treatments on non-Republicans. They indicate that

the corrective affirmation treatment was effective in reducing misperceptions for non-

Republicans across all three explicit dependent variables, but only when non-white

experimental administrators were present – the effect seems to disappear when

administrators were exclusively white. No such pattern is found for the misperception

negation treatment, which is only significant once at the p < .10 level.

            In addition, we observe significant differences in Republican responses depending

on the presence of non-white administrators. The coefficient for GOP self-identification

is positive and statistically significant for all three dependent variables when (and only

when) non-white administrators were present. Finally, the interaction between the

corrective affirmation treatment and GOP reverses sign depending on the race of

administrator, suggesting possible three-way interactions. In particular, the interaction


26
     Results are nearly identical for ordered probit (available upon request).
                                                              18
coefficient for Muslim is 2.58 on a seven-point scale (95% CI: 0.27, 4.89), suggesting

that a massive backfire effect took place among Republicans in response to the corrective

affirmation treatment. We examine this finding more extensively in the next section.



Interactive models of misperceptions

To assess whether the presence of non-white administrators affected the treatment effects,

we ran the full set of two- and three-way interactions between the correction treatments,

party identification, and the presence of a non-white administrator (presented in Table 2).



                                          [Table 2]



Several two-way interaction terms involving the corrective affirmation treatment are

found to be statistically significant across the three explicit dependent variables

(corrective affirmation x GOP for Muslim [p < .05] and non-white x corrective

affirmation for Muslim and Ex-Muslim [p < .10 and p < .05, respectively]). In addition,

we find a statistically significant three-way interaction for two of the three explicit

dependent variables, which indicates that the two-way interaction between corrective

affirmation and GOP affiliation was itself moderated by the presence or absence of a non-

white administrator (p < .05 for ReligionChoice and p < .10 for Muslim). Since it is

difficult to interpret three-way interaction models, we present a series of predicted effect

graphs to illuminate these findings below. (By contrast, none of the terms involving

misperception negation achieve statistical significance, nor do any of the predicted effects




                                              19
of the manipulation. They are thus omitted but are available upon request. We consider

explanations for this discrepancy in the discussion section below.)

         Figures 2-4 illustrate the estimated effects of the corrective affirmation treatment

by subgroup for ReligionChoice, Muslim, and Ex-Muslim, respectively.27



                                                   [Figures 2-4]



Given the two- and three-way interaction models estimated above, we present predicted

effects for the corrective affirmation treatment for both Republicans and non-Republicans

with both white and non-white experimental administrators. Predicted effects for

Republicans appear in the left panel and those for non-Republicans appear in the right

panel. Predicted effects for subjects with white administrators are represented as a solid

line and those with non-white administrators are represented as a dashed line.

         Our first finding is that the corrective affirmation made participants less likely to

believe that Obama is or was Muslim for each explicit dependent variable when a non-

white administrator was present. This result is illustrated by the negative slopes on the

dashed lines in each panel of each figure for Figures 2-4, which indicate decreasing levels

of belief that Obama is or was a Muslim. The changes in predicted values are

substantively large and frequently statistically significant across all the explicit dependent

variables for both non-Republicans (ReligionChoice: !Y = -0.85, p < .01; Muslim: !Y = -




27
  Predicted values (and p-values for predicted changes) were calculated using Clarify (King, Tomz, and Wittenberg
2000; Tomz, Wittenberg, and King 2003). Knowledge was set to the sample mean and the indicator variable for black
participants was set to 0. Marginal effects were also calculated following Brambor, Clark, and Golder (2006) – results
were substantively identical (available upon request).
                                                          20
0.95, p < .10; Ex-Muslim: !Y = -1.10, p < .05) and Republicans (ReligionChoice: !Y = -

2.00, p < .01; Muslim: !Y = -1.50, n.s.; Ex-Muslim: !Y = -1.57, n.s.).

            In addition, we also found that the corrective affirmation treatment had a

dramatically different effect among Republican participants depending on whether a non-

white administrator was present. When only white administrators were present (the solid

line in the left panels of Figures 2-4), the predicted effect of the corrective affirmation

was consistently positive, suggesting that it actually increased misperceptions among

Republicans (ReligionChoice: !Y = 0.61, n.s.; Muslim: !Y = 2.81, p < .01; Ex-Muslim:

!Y = 1.11, n.s.). In particular, perceptions that Obama is a Muslim increased

dramatically. By contrast, when a non-white administrator was present (the dashed line in

the left panels of Figures 2-4), the corrective affirmation caused Republican

misperceptions to decrease as noted above (ReligionChoice: !Y = -2.00, p < .01; Muslim:

!Y = -1.50, n.s.; Ex-Muslim: !Y = -1.57, n.s.). This difference in treatment effects

accounts for the significant three-way interaction terms in Table 2.

            Finally, the corrective affirmation treatment simply had no statistically significant

effect for non-Republican participants who took the experiment in the presence of only

white administrators (the solid line in the right panels of Figures 2-4).28

            Corroborating evidence for the results above is provided when we estimate

identical two- and three-way interaction models for perceptions of Obama’s honesty

about his religion (Honest) and feelings toward him on a feeling thermometer (Feelings).

The results of these models are presented in Table 3.




28
     ReligionChoice: !Y = -0.25, n.s.; Muslim: !Y = 0.16, n.s.; Ex-Muslim: !Y = 0.40, n.s.
                                                           21
                                                   [Table 3]



We again find significant three-way interactions among the corrective affirmation

treatment, GOP self-identification, and race of administrator for both Honest and

Feelings (p < .05 and p < .10, respectively).

         To illustrate these effects, we plot predicted values in Figures 5 and 6 using an

identical procedure to Figures 2-4.



                                                 [Figures 5-6]



The predicted effects for both variables are consistent with the account provided above.

When non-white administrators are present, Republicans report substantively large

increases in perceptions of Obama’s honesty about his religion and positive feelings

toward him, though neither increase is statistically significant (Honest: !Y = 0.88, n.s.;

Feelings: !Y = 2.66, n.s.). By contrast, when non-white administrators are absent,

Republican perceptions of Obama’s honesty about his religion and feelings toward him

decline dramatically (Honest: !Y = -3.13, p < .01; Feelings: !Y = -2.34, n.s.). This

discrepancy accounts for the statistically significant three-way interaction terms in Table

3. As before, this pattern is not observed among non-Republicans – treatment effects are

not statistically significant for any relevant participant/administrator grouping.29

         We can also shed light on the pattern of responses described above using

ReligionIAT. As expected, the experimental treatments almost never had statistically

29
  Non-Republican, nonwhite (Honest: !Y = 0.45, n.s.; Feelings: !Y = 0.23, n.s.); non-Republican, white (Honest: !Y
= -0.33, n.s.; Feelings: !Y = -0.46, n.s.).
                                                        22
significant effects on this variable, which measures automatic associations that are largely

outside of conscious control (results available upon request). We therefore use

ReligionIAT to highlight the divergent relationships between participants’ explicit

responses and their implicit associations in the presence of non-white interviewers,

particularly when given the corrective affirmation treatment. Specifically, we regress

each dependent variable (ReligionChoice, Muslim, and Ex-Muslim) on ReligionIAT, the

GOP indicator variable, and an interaction term (along with controls for knowledge and

African American participants). This model is run separately for four sub-samples: white

administrators, control condition; white administrators, corrective affirmation condition;

non-white administrators, control condition; and non-white administrators, corrective

affirmation condition. Our results are provided in Tables 4a-4c, which correspond to

ReligionChoice, Muslim, and Ex-Muslim, respectively.30



                                                      [Table 4]



The tables reveal the expected divergence between explicit and implicit measures for two

of the three dependent variables. In the absence of social desirability bias, we expect a

positive relationship between ReligionIAT and the explicit dependent variables since all

four are coded so that higher values reflect a greater association between Obama and

Islam. However, for Muslim and Ex-Muslim (though not ReligionChoice), there is a

statistically significant negative interaction between ReligionIAT and the GOP indicator


!"
  While it might be desirable to directly test these differences in a single model, doing so would require estimating a
model with a four-way interaction and fourteen constituent terms (Brambor, Clark, and Golder 2006). We do not have
enough data to estimate such a model (nor is it clear how useful such a model would be given the conceptual
complexity of a four-way interaction).
                                                          23
variable only for participants who received the corrective affirmation treatment with non-

white experimental administrators present (p < .05 in both cases).31 The net effect is

negative and statistically significant (p < .10 for Muslim and p < .01 for Ex-Muslim),

indicating that stronger implicit associations between Obama and Islam were associated

with lower explicit responses from GOP identifiers on the relevant dependent variables.

In other words, Republicans who strongly associated Obama with Islam gave explicit

responses indicating exactly the opposite (and the converse). While we do cannot derive

conclusive inferences from the relationship between two observational variables, the

differences in the patterns of association between the ReligionIAT measure and the

explicit dependent variables support the interpretation of Table 2 that is developed above.



Discussion

The estimated treatment effects for the corrective affirmation manipulation are

summarized in Table 5.32 (As previously noted, we find that the misperception negation

had no significant effects regardless of administrator race. It is therefore excluded.)



                                                      [Table 5]



An examination of treatment effects for non-Republicans in the second and third columns

reveals that consistent differences by race of administrator. When non-white

!"
  Given the small sample sizes, we cannot reject the null hypothesis of no difference in coefficients across the
subsamples. However, the patterns of statistical significance are consistent with the account provided above.
!#
  Under a stricter standard, we can reject the null hypothesis that the treatment effects (including interaction terms
where appropriate) are equal for non-Republicans with white administrators for ReligionChoice and Ex-Muslim (p < .10
and p < .05, respectively) and for non-Republican and Republican participants with nonwhite administrators on
ReligionChoice (p < .05 and p < .10, respectively). The corrective affirmation reduced misperceptions more than the
misperception negation in both cases.
                                                           24
administrators were present, the corrective affirmation treatment caused a statistically

significant decrease in misperceptions on all three dependent variables measuring

misperceptions about Obama’s religion. But when non-white administrators were absent,

the corrective affirmation had no statistically significant effects.

       The fourth and fifth columns highlight an even more interesting interaction

between the corrective affirmation and race of administrator among Republican

identifiers. The corrective affirmation seems to be modestly effective among Republican

subjects in the presence of a non-white administrator (all five dependent variables are

signed such that the treatment improved perceptions of Obama, though only one reaches

conventional levels of statistical significance). However, when only white administrators

are present with Republican subjects, the corrective affirmation failed to reduce

misperceptions and caused Republicans to be more likely to believe Obama was a

Muslim and less likely to believe he was being honest about his religion. Similar

misperception-increasing backfire effects were found for Republicans on ReligionChoice

and Ex-Muslim, though they did not reach conventional levels of statistical significance.

       We interpret these findings to mean that the presence of non-white experimental

administrators created social desirability conditions that boosted the power of the

corrective affirmation, which was otherwise ineffective. This interpretation is consistent

with the finding that GOP respondents’ ReligionIAT scores and their responses on

Muslim and Ex-Muslim diverged when receiving the corrective affirmation treatment with

non-white interviewers present. In the absence of these social desirability conditions,

GOP identifiers who received the treatment actually moved in a misperception-increasing

direction on Muslim, perceived Obama as less honest about his religion, and felt less


                                              25
warmly toward him. This account corresponds to Nyhan and Reifler’s finding of backfire

effects among conservatives who received corrections of misperceptions about the war in

Iraq and the revenue-stimulating effects of tax cuts (2008).

       One important question for future research is why the corrective affirmation

provoked a backlash when nonwhite administrators were absent and the misperception

negation did not. This discrepancy may be the result of cognitive dissonance among the

Republican subsample when Obama invokes his Christian beliefs in the corrective

affirmation treatment. GOP identifiers were more likely to self-identify as evangelical

Christians (59% vs. 43%; !2(1) = 3.03, p < .10) and to report positive feelings toward

Christians than other participants (M = 8.37, SE = 0.44 vs. M = 7.52, SE = 0.20; p < .10).

They also reported less positive feelings towards Obama (M = 5.81, SE = 0.57 vs. M =

8.05, SE = 0.18; p < .01). The disjunction between GOP identifiers’ positive feelings

toward Christianity and their lukewarm views of Obama may have induced cognitive

dissonance, leading them to denigrate his claims about his religious beliefs. This

counterarguing may have led to increased belief in the misperceptions that Obama is or

was a Muslim as well as the corresponding declines in Honesty and Feelings.

       The results presented here underscore the extreme difficulty associated with

debunking political misperceptions. We find that misperception negations are not

effective at reducing misperceptions – a result that is consistent with psychological

research on the processing of negations. However, the corrective affirmation – a

seemingly intuitive alternate approach – fails to reduce misperceptions without the social

desirability pressure of non-white experimental administrators and provokes a backfire

effect when provided to the least favorably disposed subjects.


                                            26
Conclusion

This study extends the state of the art in research on correcting political misperceptions

using a salient rumor from the 2008 presidential campaign. Specifically, we apply a

social psychological theory about the ineffectiveness of negations to test corrections of

the misperception that Barack Obama is a Muslim, contrasting a misperception negation

(“I am not and never have been of the Muslim faith”) with a corrective affirmation (“I am

a Christian”). Our experiment has several innovative features, including a focus on the

effectiveness of a candidate’s attempts to correct a misperception (rather than a neutral

source), the use of video-based corrections as experimental manipulations, and the

construction of an implicit association test measuring associations between the

presidential candidates and religion. We find that the corrective affirmation was effective

at reducing misperceptions only when non-white experimental administrators were

present, suggesting a social desirability effect. In their absence, Republicans appear to

have been negatively provoked by the treatment, increasing their levels of belief in the

misperception and decreasing their perceptions of Obama’s honesty about his religion.

       Our results suggest that researchers should consider randomizing the assignment

of experimental administrators even when conducting computer-based survey or

experimental research. These findings strongly suggest that the race of administrators can

even affect the results of computer-based experiments. Further research should also be

conducted to ascertain the influence of minority administrators from different racial

groups. In our case, we cannot disentangle whether the effects we found were due to the

presence of a racial minority, the specific presence of someone who is black, or someone

who may be falsely perceived as Muslim (the Indian-American administrator).


                                             27
       Future research should also seek to improve on several limitations of this study

and to pursue several possible extensions. For instance, it would be desirable to test the

effectiveness of both correction treatments on a larger sample with more Republican and

white respondents. One might also wish to evaluate the relative effectiveness of written

corrective treatments relative to video clips. A third extension could contrast the effect of

corrections of misperceptions about Obama’s religion based on the source of the

information. Our use of Obama as the source had two primary virtues – it allowed us to

test how candidates can most effectively correct misperceptions about themselves using

real video clips. However, perceptions of Obama’s credibility likely varied widely along

partisan lines during the election campaign. It is unknown whether Hypothesis 1 would

have received greater support if a neutral source had been used.

       Overall, the realistic nature of our experiment makes a valuable contribution to

the study of misperceptions and attempts to correct them. In particular, we demonstrate

the key role played by desirability concerns in reporting one’s belief in politically

sensitive misperceptions – a finding that may raise questions about other studies of public

opinion about Barack Obama’s religion. In the absence of such concerns, our results

highlight the difficulty of correcting misperceptions and the potential for corrections to

provoke a backlash from citizens with the strongest commitments to those beliefs.




                                             28
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                                         32
Appendix A
Obama manipulations
Participants are randomly assigned one of the following four video clips. Each is 10-11
seconds long and contains a close-up shot of Obama talking. The misperception negation
and corrective affirmation clips that follow are taken from the same interview and thus
have identical camera shots and backdrops.

   Prompt: “You will now watch another video. Please pay close attention, as you did
   with the last video.”

   1. Control video (“60 Minutes,” Feb. 10, 2008)

       Transcript (not visible during experiment)
       OBAMA: "I had to think about this long and hard at the beginning of this process
       and say are you deluding yourself or do you really think that you can do all those
       things."

       Excerpt displayed on screen at end of video: “I had to think about this long and
       hard at the beginning of this process.”

   2. Misperception negation correction video (Christian Broadcasting Network, Jan.
      22, 2007)

       Transcript (not visible during experiment)
       OBAMA: "I'm unequivocal about this -- I am not and never have been of the
       Muslim faith. I think that those who are of the Muslim faith are deserving of
       respect and dignity."

       Excerpt displayed on screen at end of video: “I'm unequivocal about this -- I am
       not and never have been of the Muslim faith.”

   3. corrective affirmation correction video (Christian Broadcasting Network, Jan. 22,
      2007)

       Transcript (not visible during experiment)
       OBAMA: "I want to make sure that your viewers understand that I am a Christian
       who has belonged to the same church for almost twenty years now."

       Excerpt displayed on screen at end of video: “I am a Christian who has belonged
       to the same church for almost twenty years now.”

Explicit dependent variables

“Do you happen to know what Barack Obama's religion is?”
-Jewish
-Buddhist
                                      33
-Christian
-Muslim
-Hindu
-Atheist
-Agnostic
-Something else
-Don't know

Branching on Christian and Muslim responses:
“How devout of a Christian/Muslim do you think Obama is?”
-Extremely devout Christian/Muslim
-Very devout Christian/Muslim
-Somewhat devout Christian/Muslim
-Not too devout Christian/Muslim
-Not at all devout Christian/Muslim

ReligionChoice response scale:
-“Extremely/very devout Muslim” (5)
-“Somewhat/not too/not at all devout Muslim” (4)
-“Don’t know” (3)
-“Somewhat/not too/not at all devout Christian” (2)
-“Extremely/very devout Christian” (1)

“Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements:”

“Barack Obama is a Muslim.” (Muslim)
-Strongly agree (7)
-Somewhat agree (6)
-Slightly agree (5)
-Neither agree nor disagree (4)
-Slightly disagree (3)
-Somewhat disagree (2)
-Strongly disagree (1)
-Don't know (4)

“Barack Obama used to be a Muslim.” (Ex-Muslim)
-Strongly agree (7)
-Somewhat agree (6)
-Slightly agree (5)
-Neither agree nor disagree (4)
-Slightly disagree (3)
-Somewhat disagree (2)
-Strongly disagree (1)
-Don't know (4)



                                           34
“Please state whether you agree or disagree with the following statements:”

“Barack Obama is being honest about his religious faith.” (Honest)
-Strongly agree (7)
-Somewhat agree (6)
-Slightly agree (5)
-Neither agree nor disagree (4)
-Slightly disagree (3)
-Somewhat disagree (2)
-Strongly disagree (1)

“Here are some questions about your feelings toward some people and groups who have
been in the news. For each one, please rate them using something called the feeling
thermometer. Your responses will be kept strictly confidential so please be open and
honest in your answers.”

“For each item, you can choose any number between 0 and 10. The higher the number,
the warmer or more favorable you feel toward that person or group; the lower the
number, the colder or less favorable. You would rate the person or group as 5 if you feel
neither warm nor cold toward them.”

“If we come to a person or group that you don't recognize, you don't need to rate them --
just move on to the next one.”

Barack Obama (Feelings)

0      1       2      3       4      5       6      7       8        9     10




                                           35
Appendix B

The IAT application began with explicit instructions that directed participants to press the

“E” key for images or words that fit under the category on the left-hand side of the screen

and the “I” key for images or words that fit under the category on the right-hand side of

the screen. They were told that if they responded incorrectly, a red “X” would appear, in

which case they should press the opposite button. They were then told to inform the

experimenter if they had any questions before the start of the IAT, and if they had none,

they should press the spacebar to continue.

       Participants then completed the IAT as specified in these instructions. The IAT

followed the block order described in the “Construction” section above. Between each

block of the IAT, the instructions regarding which button to press for each category were

repeated. Table B1 summarizes the structure of the IAT, which consists of seven

“blocks.” Four of these are used in the final algorithm used to compute each participant’s

IAT score. During each of these blocks, the computer recorded the time it took the

participant to respond (“latency time”) and whether or not their answer was correct.

       The first two practice blocks were intended to help participants learn the concept

dimensions (of John McCain vs. Barack Obama) and the attribute dimensions (of

Christian vs. Islam). The first block of 20 trials required participants to sort a mix of

images of John McCain and Barack Obama based on what image appeared on screen by

pressing either the “E” key for McCain or the “I” key for Obama. The second block of 20

trials required participants to sort words that were either Christian or Muslim into their

appropriate categories by pressing the “E” key for Christian or the “I” key for Muslim.




                                              36
       The purpose of the next two practice blocks was to test the first phase of concept-

attitude pairing. The third block of 20 practice trials then required participants to press

the “E” key if either an image of Barack Obama or a Muslim word appeared on screen

and to press the “I” key if either an image of John McCain or a Christian word appeared

on screen. The fourth block repeated the procedure of the third block, but this block

actually tested participants’ implicit associations.

       The fifth block served as another practice block for participants and was intended

to help participants learn to switch the spatial locations on the screen of the concepts they

represent. In 20 trials, participants repeated the exact same task as in the first block of

trials except that the categories were assigned to opposite keys.

       The final two blocks represented the second phase of concept-attitude pairing.

The sixth block of 20 practice trials required participants to press the “E” key if either an

image of Barack Obama or a Christian word appeared on screen and to press the “I” key

if either an image of John McCain or a Muslim word appeared on screen. The seventh

block repeated the procedure of the sixth block but consisted of 40 test trials.

       Research shows that if the intuitive pairing is first (in this case, Obama with

Muslim and McCain with Christian), the difference in latency times will be greater than

if the non-intuitive pairing is first (Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998). To correct

this error, the positions of the pairings in the presentation order were randomly switched

for half of the participants. The tables below describe the two orderings of the blocks that

were used in the procedure.




                                              37
Intuitive pairing first:

Block    # of trials   Function     Item(s) assigned to “E” key        Item(s) assigned to “I” key
  1          20        Practice         John McCain images                Barack Obama images
  2          20        Practice           Christian words                    Muslim words
  3          20        Practice    Obama images + Muslim words       McCain images + Christian words
  4          40           Test     Obama images + Muslim words       McCain images + Christian words
  5          20         Practice       Barack Obama images                John McCain images
  6          20        Practice    Obama images + Christian words     Obama images + Muslim words
  7          40           Test     Obama images + Christian words     Obama images + Muslim words

Non-intuitive pairing first:

Block    # of trials   Function     Item(s) assigned to “E” key       Item(s) assigned to “I” key
  1          20        Practice        Barack Obama images               John McCain images
  2          20        Practice            Christian words                   Muslim words
  3          20         Practice   Obama images + Christian words    McCain images + Muslim words
  4          40           Test     Obama images + Christian words    McCain images + Muslim words
  5          20         Practice        John McCain images               Barack Obama images
  6          20         Practice   McCain images + Christian words   Obama images + Muslim words
  7          40           Test     McCain images + Christian words   Obama images + Muslim words




                                                 38
Figure 1: Distributions of misperception variables

      50                   ReligionChoice                                                            Muslim




                                                                       50
      40




                                                                  20 30 40
   Percent




                                                                  Percent
   20 30
      10




                                                                       10
      0




                                                                       0
               Devout Christian    Don’t know   Devout Muslim                  Strongly disagree       Neither        Strongly agree



                                Ex−Muslim                                                          ReligionIAT
      50




                                                                       20
      40




                                                                          15
                                                                  Percent
   Percent
   20 30




                                                                    10 5
      10




                                                                       0
      0




             Stongly disagree       Neither      Strongly agree                −1.5    −1     −.5     0      .5   1       1.5




Higher values represent greater levels of belief that Obama is or was a Muslim (ReligionChoice, Muslim,
Ex-Muslim) or stronger associations between Obama and Islam (ReligionIAT)




                                                                    39
Figure 2: Corrective affirmation treatment effects for ReligionChoice

                                             GOP                                                Non−GOP
              3.5




                                                                             3.5
              3




                                                                             3
   Obama religion choice
           2.5




                                                                             2.5
              2




                                                                             2
              1.5




                                                                             1.5




                           0                                             1         0                                             1
                                    Corrective affirmation                                  Corrective affirmation

                               White administrators          Non−white                 White administrators          Non−white




Higher values represent greater levels of belief that Obama is a Muslim.




                                                                               40
Figure 3: Corrective affirmation treatment effects for Muslim

                                          GOP                                              Non−GOP
            6




                                                                          6
            5




                                                                          5
   Obama Muslim scale
                  4




                                                                          4
    3




                                                                          3
            2




                                                                          2
            1




                                                                          1




                        0                                             1       0                                             1
                                 Corrective affirmation                                Corrective affirmation

                            White administrators          Non−white               White administrators          Non−white




Higher values represent greater levels of belief that Obama “is a Muslim.”




                                                                          41
Figure 4: Corrective affirmation treatment effects for Ex-Muslim

                                             GOP                                              Non−GOP
              6




                                                                             6
              5




                                                                             5
   Obama Ex−Muslim scale
            4




                                                                             4
              3




                                                                             3
              2




                                                                             2




                           0                                             1       0                                             1
                                    Corrective affirmation                                Corrective affirmation

                               White administrators          Non−white               White administrators          Non−white




Higher values represent greater levels of belief that Obama “used to be a Muslim.”




                                                                             42
Figure 5: Corrective affirmation treatment effects for Honest

                                     GOP                                              Non−GOP
         7




                                                                     7
         6




                                                                     6
   Obama honesty
        5




                                                                     5
         4




                                                                     4
         3




                                                                     3




                   0                                             1       0                                             1
                            Corrective affirmation                                Corrective affirmation

                       White administrators          Non−white               White administrators          Non−white




Higher values represent greater levels of belief that Obama is “being honest about his religious faith.”




                                                                     43
Figure 6: Corrective affirmation treatment effects for Feelings

                                                 GOP                                              Non−GOP
                8




                                                                                 8
                7




                                                                                 7
   Obama feeling thermometer
               6




                                                                                 6
                5




                                                                                 5
                4




                                                                                 4




                               0                                             1       0                                             1
                                        Corrective affirmation                                Corrective affirmation

                                   White administrators          Non−white               White administrators          Non−white




Higher values represent warmer feelings toward Obama.




                                                                                 44
        Table 1: Treatment effects by race of administrator

                                              White administrators                  Non-white administrators
                                   ReligionChoice    Muslim      Ex-Muslim ReligionChoice   Muslim      Ex-Muslim
Misperception negation                   0.18         -0.28         -0.42       -0.23       -0.75*        -0.73
                                       (0.24)        (0.44)        (0.43)      (0.29)       (0.45)       (0.59)
Corrective affirmation                  -0.24          0.18          0.39      -0.86***      -0.97**     -1.09*
                                       (0.23)        (0.43)        (0.42)      (0.29)       (0.43)       (0.57)
Black respondent                        -0.17         -0.38         -0.53       -0.16        -0.03         0.14
                                       (0.20)        (0.36)        (0.35)      (0.26)       (0.39)       (0.52)
Political knowledge                     -0.32        -2.71***      -2.54***     -0.44        -2.72***    -1.63**
                                       (0.31)        (0.58)        (0.56)      (0.39)       (0.58)       (0.76)
GOP                                     -0.45         -0.29          0.64       1.07**        1.74**      2.08**
                                       (0.40)        (0.72)        (0.70)      (0.53)       (0.71)       (0.95)
Misperception negation X GOP             0.56          1.66         -0.60       -0.59        -0.36        -0.60
                                       (0.63)        (1.17)        (1.14)      (0.75)       (1.06)       (1.41)
Corrective affirmation X GOP             0.85          2.58**        0.71       -1.09        -0.55        -0.67
                                       (0.67)        (1.17)        (1.14)      (0.70)       (0.96)       (1.28)
Constant                                2.08***       3.77***       4.04***     2.55***       3.68***     3.57***
                                       (0.25)        (0.46)        (0.45)      (0.32)       (0.48)       (0.64)
R2                                       0.05          0.19          0.17        0.26         0.41         0.24
N                                        137           147           147          77           77           78
*p < .10, **p < 0.05, ***p < .01 (two-sided)

        Higher values on ReligionChoice, Muslim, and Ex-Muslim represent greater levels of belief that Obama is
        or was a Muslim.




                                                           45
Table 2: Three-way interaction models of misperceptions


                                    ReligionChoice                    Muslim       Ex-Muslim
Misperception negation                     0.18                         -0.30         -0.40
                                          (0.23)                       (0.40)         (0.43)
Corrective affirmation                    -0.25                          0.16          0.40
                                          (0.22)                       (0.39)         (0.41)
Black respondent                          -0.17                         -0.27         -0.33
                                          (0.15)                       (0.27)         (0.29)
Political knowledge                       -0.37                       -2.74***      -2.25***
                                          (0.24)                       (0.43)         (0.45)
GOP                                       -0.44                         -0.28          0.62
                                          (0.39)                       (0.66)         (0.70)
Non-white administrator                    0.43                          0.08          0.23
                                          (0.27)                       (0.48)         (0.51)
Misperception negation x GOP               0.56                          1.68         -0.57
                                          (0.61)                       (1.07)         (1.13)
Non-white x GOP                           1.53**                        1.95*          1.26
                                          (0.67)                       (1.11)         (1.17)
Non-white x misp. negation                -0.41                         -0.50         -0.43
                                          (0.38)                       (0.69)         (0.73)
Non-white x misp. negation x GOP          -1.19                         -2.04          0.21
                                          (0.98)                       (1.70)         (1.80)
Corrective affirmation x GOP               0.86                        2.63**          0.74
                                          (0.64)                       (1.06)         (1.13)
Non-white x corr. affirmation             -0.60                        -1.11*        -1.51**
                                          (0.37)                       (0.66)         (0.70)
Non-white x corr. affirmation x GOP      -1.97**                       -3.12*         -1.20
                                          (0.97)                       (1.61)         (1.71)
IAT counterbalance

Constant                                            2.09***           3.72***         3.83***
                                                    (0.22)            (0.38)          (0.40)
R2                                                   0.14              0.26            0.19
N                                                     214               224             225
*p < .10, **p < 0.05, ***p < .01 (two-sided)

Higher values on ReligionChoice, Muslim, and Ex-Muslim represent greater levels of belief that Obama is
or was a Muslim.




                                                   46
Table 3: Three-way interaction models of Obama perceptions


                                           Honest         Feelings
Misperception negation                        -0.44          0.32
                                             (0.37)        (0.59)
Corrective affirmation                        -0.34         -0.42
                                             (0.36)        (0.57)
Black respondent                             0.45*          0.76*
                                             (0.25)        (0.40)
Political knowledge                          0.71*          -0.73
                                             (0.39)        (0.64)
GOP                                            0.72         -1.14
                                             (0.61)        (1.01)
Non-white administrator                       -0.33         -0.04
                                             (0.44)        (0.72)
Misperception negation x GOP                  -0.99         -1.12
                                             (0.98)        (1.59)
Non-white x GOP                               -1.38         -1.43
                                             (1.02)        (1.65)
Non-white x misp. negation                     0.23         -0.08
                                             (0.64)        (1.01)
Non-white x misp. negation x GOP               0.93          0.35
                                             (1.57)        (2.50)
Corrective affirmation x GOP               -2.71***          -1.9
                                             (0.98)        (1.58)
Non-white x corr. affirmation                   0.8          0.65
                                             (0.62)        (0.98)
Non-white x corr. affirmation x GOP          3.13**         4.24*
                                             (1.49)        (2.42)
Constant                                    5.29***        7.87***
                                             (0.35)        (0.56)
R2                                             0.10          0.16
N                                              222           219
*p < .10, **p < 0.05, ***p < .01 (two-sided)

Higher values on Honest and Feelings represent more positive perceptions of Obama’s honesty about his
religious faith and feelings toward him, respectively.




                                                  47
Table 4: ReligionIAT correspondence with explicit dependent variables

(4a) DV=ReligionChoice
                                White administrators        Non-white administrators
                               Control         Corr. aff.    Control        Corr. aff.
ReligionIAT                     0.32             0.39         0.71           -0.15
                               (0.34)           (0.25)       (0.51)          (0.22)
GOP                             -0.60           -0.84         2.03           -0.26
                               (0.47)           (0.91)       (1.92)          (0.28)
ReligionIAT x GOP               0.06             2.40        -1.66            0.50
                               (0.73)           (1.57)       (4.36)          (0.57)
Political knowledge             -0.27           -0.72        -1.04            0.73
                               (0.56)           (0.51)       (1.00)          (0.44)
Black respondent                0.08             0.02        -0.23            0.06
                               (0.38)           (0.28)       (0.72)          (0.27)
Constant                        1.83***          1.79***      2.69***         1.16***
                               (0.40)           (0.26)       (0.71)          (0.31)
R2                              0.08             0.16         0.44            0.25
N                                40               45           18              25
*p < .10, **p < 0.05, ***p < .01 (two-sided)




(4b) DV=Muslim
                                White administrators        Non-white administrators
                               Control         Corr. aff.    Control        Corr. aff.
ReligionIAT                    1.07*             0.28         0.05            0.38
                               (0.62)           (0.51)       (0.81)          (0.50)
GOP                             -0.81           3.05*         1.99           1.26*
                               (0.84)           (1.81)       (1.98)          (0.64)
ReligionIAT x GOP               0.40            -0.80        -1.03           -2.77**
                               (1.30)           (3.31)       (2.27)          (1.32)
Political knowledge            -2.69***         -4.91***     -2.67           -2.39**
                               (0.97)           (1.11)       (1.53)          (1.03)
Black respondent                -0.03           -0.63        -0.98           -0.03
                               (0.66)           (0.59)       (1.14)          (0.63)
Constant                        3.51***          4.59***      3.75***         2.63***
                               (0.69)           (0.55)       (1.10)          (0.72)
R2                              0.26             0.38         0.33            0.51
N                                41               48           19              25
*p < .10, **p < 0.05, ***p < .01 (two-sided)




                                                48
(4c) DV=Ex-Muslim
                                 White administrators                Non-white administrators
                                Control           Corr. aff.          Control           Corr. aff.
ReligionIAT                       1.50**            0.56                0.74             -0.71
                                 (0.65)            (0.41)              (1.01)            (0.57)
GOP                              -0.14              1.46                3.60              2.25***
                                 (0.88)            (1.48)              (2.47)            (0.73)
ReligionIAT x GOP                 1.02             -0.73               -1.52             -3.27**
                                 (1.37)            (2.71)              (2.84)            (1.51)
Political knowledge              -2.57**           -4.25***            -2.19             -1.29
                                 (1.01)            (0.88)              (1.91)            (1.17)
Black respondent                  0.01             -1.48***             0.05              0.08
                                 (0.69)            (0.48)              (1.42)            (0.73)
Constant                         3.69***            5.44***             4.20***           2.22**
                                 (0.73)            (0.44)              (1.38)            (0.82)
R2                                0.30              0.45                0.30              0.53
N                                 41                 48                 19                 26
*p < .10, **p < 0.05, ***p < .01 (two-sided)


Higher values on ReligionChoice, Muslim, and Ex-Muslim represent greater levels of belief that Obama is
or was a Muslim.




                                                   49
Table 5: Predicted effects of corrective affirmation treatment
Party:                        Non-GOP                               GOP
                     White adm.     Non-white            White adm.     Non-white
ReligionChoice          -0.25         -0.85***               0.61         -2.00***
                       (0.21)         (0.31)               (0.63)         (0.66)
Muslim                   0.16         -0.95*                2.81***        -1.50
                       (0.38)         (0.54)               (1.00)         (1.09)
Ex-Muslim                0.40         -1.10**                1.11          -1.57
                       (0.42)         (0.56)               (1.06)         (1.18)
Honest                  -0.33          0.45                -3.13***        0.89
                       (0.36)         (0.51)               (0.90)         (1.00)
Feelings                -0.46          0.23                 -2.34          2.66
                       (0.56)         (0.85)               (1.49)         (1.69)

*p < .10, **p < 0.05, ***p < .01 (two-sided)

Higher values on ReligionChoice, Muslim, and Ex-Muslim represent greater levels of belief that Obama is
or was a Muslim. Higher values on Honest and Feelings represent more positive perceptions of Obama’s
honesty about his religious faith and feelings toward him, respectively.




                                                   50