Appeal to Popularity
populum (appeal to popularity) and related fallacy examples
are analyzed for credibility in a self-scoring quiz.
Ad Populum Examples Exercise
Ad Populum Fallacy Practice Directions:
(1) Study the features of the argumentum
ad populum from this web page: Ad
(2) Read and analyze the following passages.
(3) Explain with a sentence or two as to whether or
not you judge an ad populum fallacy to be present.
(4) Check your answer.
“To his dying day, Governor Marvin Mandel will
never understand what was wrong in accepting more than
$350,000 worth of gifts from wealthy friends who happened
to engage in business ventures that benefited from his
gubernatorial influence. The governor has lots company …
And to a man they have cried in bewilderment that
‘everybody does it,’ that politics survives on back
“The argument present in this passage is essentially as follows:
Businessmen often present gifts to public officials. Public officials, in return, help businesses. ∴ Public officials' acceptance of gifts is an acceptable practice.
Simply because many politicians accept gifts from businessman does not
thereby make the practice acceptable. The ad populum
(bandwagon) fallacy is used.
St. Augustine wrote, “For such is the power true
Godhead that it cannot be altogether and utterly hidden from
the rational creature, once it makes use of its reason. For
with the exception of a few in whom nature is excessively
depraved, the whole human race confesses God to be author of
The ad populum fallacy: Augustine argues that since
almost everyone thinks that God created the world, it reasonably follows
that God did create the world. Again, simply because everyone believes
something is the case, it does not logically follow that that it is the
case. Note, as well in Augustine's argument, the ad hominem implications of the
phrase “a few in whom nature is excessively depraved.”
“A majority held in restraint by constitutional
checks and limitations, and always changing easily with
deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is
the only true sovereign of a free people.”
Although a majority of persons is referenced in this passage, there is
no argument present — just an assertion describing the government
of the U.S. Consequently, no fallacy occurs.
Thomas Collins Simon attributes this argument to philosopher
“If all that the senses present to the mind is sensations,
Berkeley must be right — but Berkeley assumed this premiss
without any foundation or any proof of it. The size and shape
of things are presented to us by our senses, yet every one knows
that size and shape are not sensations.”
The argument restated: Berkeley's doctrine that the senses provide
only sensations to the mind is said to be a mistaken doctrine because
everyone knows the size and shape of things are not sensations.
What everyone is said to “know” in this case is what
everyone is assumed to believe, and this is not relevant for the proof
of Berkeley's doctrine. So the fallacy of ad populum
(And, as well, from a philosophical point of view, the fallacy of
petitio principii occurs in that the argument
presupposes the distinction between primary and secondary qualities,
which Berkeley did not distinguish since he regarded both kinds of
qualities as mind-dependent.)
“Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for
Men, by Caroline Criado Perez. This is not the type of book I
would usually read — it's common knowledge, at least to very
petite women who shop for the latest fashions in the children's
section, that it's a world designed for guys. But oh boy, there's so
much more to it.”
An ad populum (bandwagon) fallacy is used here for
the foundation of a converse accident
fallacy. On the basis of petite women's common belief that shopping
for children's clothes is difficult, the author concludes the world
is biased for men. Even for a facetious argument, logic sense is
“The Trump administration is being sued over its plans to include
a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census, which California
Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) says ‘is not just a bad idea
— it is illegal.’ No, it's not. There is nothing wrong
with asking about citizenship. Canada asks a citizenship question on its
census. So do Australia and many other U.S. allies.
The argument is since many U.S. allies have a census-citizenship
question; therefore, it is legal for the U.S. to have a
census-citizenship question also. The fact that other countries have
such a question is irrelevant to the legality of the question in
the U.S. The fallacy of ad populum occurs, and this
irrelevancy is also an ignoratio_elenchi_ diversion
from the issue of whether or not a citizenship-question conforms to
“Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and
the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring
interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand
for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down
upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify
mankind upon a cross of gold.”
William Jennings Bryan's argument:
Establishment of the gold standard will hurt workers ∴ The gold standard should not be adopted.
The passage is a classic example of an ad populum
rhetorical fallacy on account of its intense emotive significance.
The effectiveness of the argument depends upon the truth of the
“Some of you hold to the doctrine of States' Rights as applying
to woman suffrage. Adherence to that theory will keep the United States
far behind all other democratic nations upon this question. A theory
which prevents a nation from keeping up with the trend of world progress
cannot be justified.” [italics original]
Ad populum_ (bandwagon) fallacy occurs. From the trend
of “world progress,” the author concludes that supporting
the doctrine of states rights would prevent the U.S. from keeping with
with the progress of other nations with respect women's suffrage. The
question of suffrage in the U.S. should be determined by what is right
rather than by whether or not other countries deny or approve of suffrage.
“[T]he human soul is immortal, because all learned men agree that
anything which does not come out of the potentiality of matter is incorruptible
The ad populum fallacy occurs since the generalization,
even if true, that all learned men would agree that the soul does not
arise from matter, this agreement is not a proof that the human soul is
mortal. The common belief assumed here is not common knowledge.
“[W]hen Alexander was in Asia, the Chaldeans reckoned 473,000 years,
since they first observed the stars; not that so long a space was understood
by themselves of years … [f]or it is probable, that these years were
but periods of cycles of short length … These reports of the early
efforts of the Chaldeans, are corroborated by the testimony of many eastern
No fallacy is committed. The argument presented is since many Eastern
writers corroborated the reports of the Chaldean knowledge of astronomy
for some years, it is probable that the Chaldeans had such knowledge.
How many years since they first observed the stars is not at issue.
This ABC-TV 1992 advertisement is quoted in a popular logic textbook:
“Why are so many people attracted to the Pontiac Grand
Prix? It could be that so many people are attracted to the Grand
(This passage has been presented in all versions of this textbook as a
“recent” ad populum example for the past
forty years. The Pontiac Grand Prix stopped production in 2008.)
The logic textbook cites this advertisement as committing the
ad populum fallacy. Undoubtedly, the authors are
possibly assuming that there is an implied elliptical conclusion,
translated something like this:
Many people are attracted to the Pontiac Grand Prix. ∴ [The Pontiac Grand Prix is an excellent automobile.]
Many people are attracted to the Pontiac Grand Prix. ∴ [You should also be attracted to the Pontiac
But this interpretation is unlikely since the original passage,
as it is presented is this argument:
Many people are attracted to the Pontiac Grand Prix ∴ Many people are attracted to the Pontiac Grand Prix.
This argument commits the fallacy of petitio principii (circular argument), assuming
the point at issue.
“I am one black woman who believes in America and loves this
country, who believes that our future lies in Christianity, capitalism
and the Constitution. And I am here to tell you that tens of millions
of American of all backgrounds are with me — and are with
President Trump. Let's stand up and fight, fight those that hate our
nation and what it stands for. Let's win back our nation, our freedom
and our God for our future, for our children. God Bless America.”
The emotive ad populum rhetorical fallacy occurs,
turning on the attempt to garner support for President Trump and his
policies by touting an American appeal to inflated popular patriotic
attitudes of the Republican party.
“We all believe such preachers as Mr. Raskin. He is so nearly
right, his ideals are so very high, that most people assent —
while they have no difficulty in evading them and going on their way
as if a breath of wind had fanned their faces, and no voice of truth
had stirred their spirits.”
No fallacy is present in this passage. Implicitly, the argument can
be translated as:
Mr. Raskin is so nearly right. His ideals are very high ∴ We believe him.
The premises provide some relevant evidence for the truth of the conclusion.
“[I]nternational inspectors would monitor Iran's facilities,
and if Iran is caught breaking the agreement economic sanctions would
be imposed again. … Snapback sanctions? Everyone knows that
once the international sanctions are lifted, they are never coming
The standard ad populum (bandwagon) fallacy is presented.
Mr. Krauthammer might be correct that most people believe that
if the sanctions are lifted, they will never come back, but reasons are not
provided for his conclusion that this is something that is known to be true.
“[John Dickie] is an industrious outsider wholly reliant on
published literature [of] deeply flawed documents … Dickie's
contemptuous dismissal of the contention that annexation was economically
disastrous for Sicily contradicts the consensus of economic historians
who have published on the subject.”
Not an ad poplum fallacy since the authorities cited as
writers who are economic historians of the subject in question are relevant
authorities in their field.
1. Martha Angle and Robert Walters, “In Washington: The
Public Isn't Buying” Bowling Green Daily News
123 No. 212 (September 6, 1977), 16.↩
9. Donato Acciaiuoli, “Commentary on the Nichomachean
Ethics” ed. Jill Kraye in Cambridge Translations
of Renaissance Philosophical Texts vol. I, Moral
Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997),