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Political Accuracy & Divisions Study (PADS)

In the Partisan Accuracy and Divisions Study (PADS), we conducted an extensive survey of over 3,000 American adults to assess their accuracy about a variety of controversial topics including, abortion, immigration, gender, race, crime, and the economy. So much of our political discourse revolves around these topics—but how much do we really know about these issues and the views of our fellow Americans? How informed are the loudest, most politically confident voices? We will examine the prevalence of misconceptions across the political continuum, and in doing so, we hope to offer a means by which to improve the quality of our national discourse.

For additional information, please feel free to contact the Skeptic Research Center by email: [email protected].


Are “White People” Morally Deviant?

Fourth report in the Political Accuracy & Divisions Study (PADS)

For decades in the U.S., and particularly in the last few years, journalists and intellectuals have suggested that “white people” are socially or morally deviant. Time magazine, for example, published the claim that white supremacy is the “foundational principle” of culture in the U.S., preventing non-whites from having “perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect grades…[or regarded as a] perfect employee and colleague.” In 2020, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture claimed “rational thinking” and “hard work” are white supremacist ideals that oppress non-whites. In a recent opinion editorial, Savala Nolan, the Executive Director of the Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law, said “white people…disappoint me. They frustrate me. They make me sad.” Meanwhile, books describing the immorality of white people, such as Caste, How to be an Anti-Racist, and White Fragility have all soared to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List. Given these strong opinions, in this report we ask: what does the public really think about the (apparent) immorality of white people?
Download Report (PADS-004)

Suggested Citation: McCaffree, K., & Saide, A. (2023). Are “White People” Morally Deviant? Skeptic Research Center, PADS-004.


Update: How Informed are Americans about Race and Policing?

Third report in the Political Accuracy & Divisions Study (PADS)

“Defund the police” was the rallying cry of liberals in the Summer of 2020, motivating “mostly peaceful” protests that led to property damage in excess of two billion dollars across at least 20 US states (Johansmeyer, 2021). To better understand the motivation behind these protests, in 2020, we surveyed people about their estimates of the number of unarmed black men shot by police in 2019 and found a shocking degree of inaccuracy, particularly amongst progressives. In this report, we present an update on these data and ask: have people become more knowledgeable when it comes to the available data on fatal police shootings of unarmed black Americans?
Download Report (PADS-003)

Suggested Citation: McCaffree, K., & Saide, A. (2023). Update: How Informed are Americans about Race and Policing? Skeptic Research Center, PADS-003.


Trans, Identity and Institutional Controversies

Second report in the Political Accuracy & Divisions Study (PADS)

A particularly salient culture-war issue in contemporary American society concerns the relationship between gender identity and biological sex. While some insist that peoples’ subjective interpretation of their sex is paramount, others insist objective markers (like chromosomes) are practically more relevant. Most recently, this issue has been enflamed by two central institutional controversies: biological males identifying as women competing in women’s sports leagues and sex/gender-oriented material being taught to young children in schools. Disagreement abounds, with liberals sometimes downplaying the severity of these controversies, and conservatives doing the opposite. In this report, we ask: what do Americans really think about these issues?

Download Report (PADS-002)

Suggested Citation: McCaffree, K., & Saide, A. (2023). Trans, Identity and Institutional Controversies. Skeptic Research Center, PADS-002.


What Do Americans Believe About Abortion and How Accurate Are They?

First report in the Political Accuracy & Divisions Study (PADS)

In this report, one of a series of reports on controversial topics in American culture, we investigated the degree to which partisans in the United States hold accurate beliefs about abortion and about each other. Herein, we covered three central questions in the American abortion debate:

  1. What abortion policies do Americans really prefer?
  2. How accurate are Americans’ beliefs about the prevalence of abortion and the recent Supreme Court ruling, and what variables influence their accuracy?
  3. How accurate are Americans regarding the abortion beliefs of other people?

The over-arching goal of this report was thus to contribute to our collective understanding of what Americans really believe, as well as how accurate they are about the topic of abortion and about one another.

Download Report (PADS-001)

Suggested Citation: McCaffree, K. & Saide, A. (2023). What Do Americans Believe About Abortion and How Accurate Are We? Skeptic Research Center, PADS-001.

4 responses to “Political Accuracy & Divisions Study (PADS)”

  1. I favor a right to abortion the day after conception, the loss of a few undifferentiated cells.
    I object to a right to abortion the day before natural birth. I believe there are some extreme cases that may give rise to exceptions to very late abortions.
    I welcome arguments as to when, between these two extremes, there can be an agreement to forbid abortions.

  2. SSG says:

    The authors write: “We collected a larger proportion of non-Whites in this sample because these groups
    are typically under-represented in survey research.”

    How can you claim that the survey results are representative of the American population when you guaranteed that the results are not representative, but instead under-represent the views of Whites and over-represent the views of racial minorities? How did you decide which White respondents to exclude and which to keep?

    Since racial minorities tend to support the Democratic Party and its policy positions, over-representing them in the survey has likely made pro-abortion policies appear more popular among Americans than is actually the case. This outcome is probably very pleasing to Michael Shermer, who has repeatedly demonstrated his bias in favor of both abortion and the Democratic Party, but skewing the survey results in this way does a disservice to your readers.

    In addition to the flaw mentioned above, the section of the report that deals with the accuracy about other people’s abortion beliefs contains a surprising deficiency. While the authors make the case that people tend to overestimate the percentage of Republicans who desire an outright ban on abortion, they never explore the tendency of people to overestimate the percentage of Democrats who oppose any restrictions on abortion. It’s as if the authors want to give abortion a positive spin by saying, “look, even most Republicans support abortion at least to some extent.” Although that’s true, they just as easily could have said, “look, even most Democrats want to restrict abortion at least to some extent, including bans late in pregnancy.”

    Despite the aforementioned flaws, the report is largely clear, balanced, and non-partisan. Well done.

  3. Bruce Danckwerts says:

    Please PLEASE (Pretty Please) when presenting your report on line, for viewing on a screen, format the text as a single wide column rather than two parallel columns. The problem with double column formats is that one has to scroll up and down the page, which is a right pain.

    I think we should all be relieved to read that America is not as polarized over abortion as we might have supposed from media coverage. That should give us hope that we will eventually find policies that are wise and acceptable to the vast majority.

    • Geraldine says:

      Several decades ago I remember my dad, uncles and friends discussing politics while they worked on their cars. And even though I can remember the disagreements, no one went home with a broken nose, and no one was shot.

      We are told at work to never discuss religion or politics or any other subject that may be deemed controversial. For many people, we spend more time with coworkers than we do with our own family or friends. Therefore, we only talk to those that agree with us, and we isolate and are isolated from the ‘others.’

      This study on how aware, or not, people are, on the subject of abortion is the tip of the iceberg.

      Luckily I work with a few people who are willing to have the hard discussions. While I have not changed my mind on the subject of abortion, I now have a better understanding of why they believe as they do.

      Being a woman I have a pretty narrow view about autonomy and abortion, and I think I may have helped a person or two understand why I think the way I do.

      Like you, I hope that clearer heads prevail and policies will be enacted that the majority can live with.

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