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Op-Ed: Liberals and conservatives both misuse facts. But there are ways to stop that impulse

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The White House is reportedly considering expanding its restrictions on travel to the United States from majority-Muslim countries. Amid heightened tensions with Iran, there was increased scrutiny of Iranian Americans returning to the U.S. from Canada. And the governor of Texas recently closed his state to refugee resettlement, citing security concerns.

Most Republicans have supported restrictive policies such as the so-called Muslim travel ban, and most Democrats have opposed them. Policies that affect hundreds of thousands of people should be guided by facts, not political partisanship. But even when liberals and conservatives agree about what the facts are, they disagree about which facts are relevant.

In a recent study, we provided people with a few simple statistics and asked them which was most important to consider in evaluating several policies, including the Trump administration’s 2017 travel ban. Most supporters of the ban reported that the most important statistic was that 70% of immigrants who are identified as terrorists are from predominantly Muslim countries. But this statistic implies that Muslim immigrants pose a misleadingly high threat — and those who opposed the ban easily saw through the faulty reasoning.

To appreciate the problem, consider a less polarizing example. About 75% of NBA players are black but only about 0.002% of black........

© Los Angeles Times