When the Labor Department reported a one percentage point decline in unemployment a few weeks ago, University of Massachusetts researchers already had a survey in the field. So they drew a line in their tabulations between the periods before and after the report.
Here's what they found:
- After the report was issued, Liberals and Moderates were much more likely to say unemployment had decreased over the last year (and the converse, less likely to say unemployment had increased).
- Initially, Conservatives were also more likely to say unemployment had decreased (and the converse).
- But over time, Conservative responses returned to where they had been prior to the announcement.
The charts below illustrate the pattern.
As many political scientists have discovered, inconvenient information is often forgotten or rationalized away so we can continue to believe what we always believed.
Of course, conservatives don't have a corner on this particular human tendency. Liberals can be just as selective in what they forget or ignore.