A new study released by Franklin Templeton Investments demonstrates the yawning gap between reality and perception concerning the coronavirus–and does so based on political affiliation. Authored by Sonal Desai, Ph.D., the CIO of the firm’s Fixed Income division, the study is that rare piece of analysis that lays bare the folly of panic on the left.
Desai exposes the left’s lack of comprehension deftly and not without some humorous asides.
The first round of our Franklin Templeton–Gallup Economics of Recovery Study has already yielded three powerful and surprising insights:
1. Americans still misperceive the risks of death from COVID-19 for different age cohorts—to a shocking extent;
2. The misperception is greater for those who identify as Democrats, and for those who rely more on social media for information; partisanship and misinformation, to misquote Thomas Dolby, are blinding us from science; and
3. We find a sizable “safety premium” that could become a significant driver of inflation as the recovery gets underway.Ibid.
The basis of the study is to discover how perception of the virus will affect economic recovery, and therefore help to guide Franklin Templeton’s investment strategies. Such studies are typically devoid of political observation, but Desai goes further than simple data points, and points out the culpability of mass media and social media in misleading the public–especially Democrats.
For the last six months, we have all read and talked about nothing but COVID-19; how can there be still such a widespread, fundamental misunderstanding of the basic facts? Our poll results identify two major culprits: the quality of information and the extreme politicization of the COVID-19 debate:
* People who get their information predominantly from social media have the most erroneous and distorted perception of risk.
* Those who identify as Democrats tend to mistakenly overstate the risk of death from COVID-19 for younger people much more than Republicans.
This, sadly, comes as no surprise. Fear and anger are the most reliable drivers of engagement; scary tales of young victims of the pandemic, intimating that we are all at risk of dying, quickly go viral; so do stories that blame everything on your political adversaries. Both social and traditional media have been churning out both types of narratives in order to generate more clicks and increase their audience.
The fact that the United States is in an election year has exacerbated the problem. Stories that emphasize the dangers of the pandemic to all age cohorts and tie the risk to the Administration’s handling of the crisis likely tend to resonate much more with Democrats than Republicans. This might be a contributing factor to why, in our survey results, Democrats tend to overestimate the risk of dying from COVID-19 for different age cohorts to a greater extent than Republicans do.
Our susceptibility to how the information is presented also plays a role. The same data can be portrayed in different forms on a graph—some reassuring and some alarming. Our study finds that how the data are presented has a very strong impact on people’s attitudes. For example, respondents who were shown COVID-19 case trends for Texas and Florida in isolation were much less willing to reopen schools and businesses than those who were shown the same trends compared to New York. And more alarming graphics tend to be used more frequently, as they generate greater engagement.Ibid.
For more, here’s the link again. While the results of the study will come as no surprise to CDMedia readers, it is a tool produced by a nonpartisan and respected financial institution that you can use in discussions with friends and family.