LEONARD PITTS: MOST BELIEVE WHAT THEY WANT TO BELIEVE

“Maybe you already knew this intuitively. Now you can know it to a scientific certainty. Drew Westen … a professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta and author of a new and still-unpublished study test whether people make decisions based on bias or fact. Bias won hands down.

In a key scenario, respondents were led to believe a soldier was accused of torturing people at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The fictional soldier claimed to have been following orders from superiors who told him the Geneva Convention had been suspended. He supposedly wanted to subpoena President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to prove his case. Respondents were asked if he should have that right.

Some were presented with strong “evidence” corroborating the soldier’s story. Others had only his word to go on.

But the strength or weakness of the evidence turned out to be immaterial. Researchers were able to predict people’s opinion more than 80 percent of the time based simply on their opinions of the Bush administration, the GOP, the military and human rights groups. Those who had less affection for the president sided with the soldier even when the evidence was weak. And fans of the president tended to side with him even when the evidence was overwhelming.

We believe what we want, facts be damned.”

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The GOP machine understands this and that’s why they almost always win.