“I feel it in my gut:” Epistemic Motivations, Political Beliefs, and Misperceptions of COVID-19 and the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election


  • Dannagal G. Young
  • Erin K. Maloney
  • Amy Bleakley
  • Jessica B. Langbaum


This project examines the intersection of political constructs and epistemic motivations as they relate to belief in misinformation. How we value the origins of knowledge – through feelings and intuition or evidence and data – has important implications for our susceptibility to misinformation. This project explores how these epistemic motivations correlate with political ideology, party identification, and favorability towards President Trump, and how epistemic and political constructs predict belief in misinformation about COVID and the 2020 election. Results from a US national survey from Nov-Dec 2020 illustrate that Republicans, conservatives, and those favorable towards President Trump held greater misperceptions about COVID and the 2020 election. Additionally, epistemic motivations were associated with political preferences; Republicans and conservatives were more likely to reject evidence, and Trump supporters more likely to value feelings and intuition. Mediation analyses support the proposition that Trump favorability, Republicanism, and conservatism may help account for the relationships between epistemic motivations and misperceptions. Results are discussed in terms of the messaging strategies of right-wing populist movements, and the implications for democracy and public health.