Study: Wide gaps in what Americans publicly profess, privately believe

"Self-silencing" widespread on key issues.

Updated: August 18, 2022 - 3:13pm

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Americans regularly publicly profess to believe in one thing while privately stating another, according to a new study examining what people support and oppose based on who's looking. 

The study, undertaken by Populace and reported on this week by Axios, found that "self-silencing," or the practice of telling people what you believe they wish to hear rather than what you actually believe, "is skewing our understanding of how Americans really feel" about hot-topic issues, the news service reported. 

Among the illustrative findings: Nearly 60 percent of respondents to the study publicly agreed that "mask-wearing was effective to stop COVID-19," while just 47 percent agreed in private. 

Similarly, 63 percent claimed in public that "abortion should be left up to a woman and her doctor," while just 58 percent of respondents said the same in private.

Todd Rose, the co-founder and president of Populace, told Axios that the habit of concealing our true beliefs from each other "causes false polarization."

"It actually destroys social trust," he added. "And it tends to historically make social progress all but impossible."