Confirmation bias – A tendency to search for information that confirms one’s preconceptions.
– David Myers, Social Psychology, 8th Ed., pg. 112.
Confirmation bias – connotes the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand.
– Raymond Nickerson, Review of General Psychology, 1998
No doubt all sides of recent political and public policy issues will accuse each other of engaging in confirmation bias. However, let’s see how many examples we can find. I may be adding more to this post as time permits.
I am not sure my headline captures it but it is close. In this New York Times article, Barack Obama is shown Zanesville, OH (near my old stomping grounds) promoting a kind of faith based initiative. After all the reading, I think the issue at odds is whether faith-based groups should be able to take Federal money if they can discriminate in hiring by only hiring people who support the faith on which the group is based. John McCain and most conservatives say such groups should be able to participate if they can control the hiring and Obama says no, groups cannot exclude people of other or no faith from working in their organizations.
I think Obama is very smart. He is courting Evangelicals by speaking an Evangelical dialect. Many rank and file Evangelicals would not support his bottom line positions but his public ideological opponents of late are attacking him without lifting up the alternative in corresponding positive tones. Until Evangelicals begin to promote McCain instead of merely attack Obama, the Illinois Senator is going to scoop up interest and possibly support among moderate Evangelicals where McCain could be strong. Mr Obama is seizing the opportunity.
I have talked about Kirbyjohn Caldwell here before. He endorsed Obama and then it was learned he has an ex-gay ministry in his church. He promptly threw them under the bus. He is now launching a website called, Jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com to rebut yesterday’s statements from Dr. Dobson.
Obama supporters may believe Dobson is taking on Obama to help McCain but that is the confusing part of this for me. Dobson has said he will not vote for McCain. So a pox on both your houses?
Problem, one house will win and there will be consequences.
One thing is for sure, Obama’s Evangelical supporters are not coy about their support.
As I typed the title, I reflected on several posts here months ago focusing on Hillary Clinton. I wondered who pro-life voters should prefer: Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton. Seems silly now, eh?
Lots of Dems preferred Hillary over Barack but not enough. However, on social issues, Obama is not much different than Hillary. And so, given that Evangelicals are overwhelmingly pro-life, it seems incredible that they could move toward Obama. However, Obama is reaching out to Evangelicals, suggesting a meeting with Focus on the Family. Today, the FOTF daily broadcast devotes some time to criticize Obama’s use of the Bible in his speeches.
Apparently, Dobson and company believe Evangelicals could be persuaded by Obama’s references to the Bible and believes some attention is needed to keep them from jumping on the Obandwagon. While sticking up for a traditional exegesis of the Bible seems reasonable for a Christian radio show, this is moving into political waters — which as the AP article points out is permitted in this case. However, if pro-life, Evangelical leaders want to really impact things, my advice would be build public bridges to McCain. Don’t wait for McCain to do it on your terms, just do it. Having trouble with the idea? Just think about Obama’s support for the Freedom of Choice Act and the Supreme Court appointments a President Obama might select.
Here is a review of a new book that is going on my after-the-semester-is-over reading list: The Future of Faith in American Politics by David Gushee.
I agree with this assessment by Gushee:
I think there are some fractures emerging among the people who identify themselves as Religious Right. I think some are starting to deemphasise partisan politics to a certain extent. Others are attempting to reframe their message. I think the new book by Tony Perkins and Harry Jackson (mentioned above) is a reframing effort. A lot of the things I critique in my book, they say ‘you’re right we need to work on those things.’ Things like disentangling from the Republican Party, having a more positive and less negative kind of tone, emphasising a broader range of issues. I think there is a feeling on the Religious Right that those things are a problem for them.
Ok, this is not going to become a political blog; I do not have the time nor the inclination to keep up with the nuances of the campaigns. However, I do think the Huckabee emergence is quite interesting. There are multiple pitfalls that await and indeed he appears to be rising in polls and the minds of Republicans. One pitfall is the investigation of the Grassley Six and questions about Huckabee’s relationship with some of those targeted.
Who knows where the investigation will go but I thought this Time magazine article made a pretty good case that the outcome will be unlikely to impact very much the candidates endorsed by ministers and ministries — at least in the primaries. In the general election, anything will be fair game. I will be quite surprised if religion is not central to the reporting of the next election.