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What Is a Bandwagon Fallacy?

Daniel Liden
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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A bandwagon fallacy is a type of argumentative fallacy that is based on an appeal to popular belief and behavior, not on valid and logical points. An argument based on this fallacy usually bears a format similar to "everyone else believes this, so it must be true" or "everyone else does this, so it must be right." Stating that a television show is good because it has many viewers, for instance, is an example of a fallacious bandwagon argument because high viewership is not necessarily a mark of quality in and of itself. This form of argumentative fallacy can be used in many contrary situations, such as arguing that a popular claim is true or that an unpopular claim is false.

There is nothing inherently fallacious or wrong in stating that many people believe a certain proposition or act in a certain way, so long as there is truth to the statement. Such a claim becomes a logical fallacy when it is used as support for an argument. When one says "A must be true, because more people believe A than not A," one uses a bandwagon fallacy. There is nothing inherent in the beliefs of many people that can make a proposition true. When one is convinced by a bandwagon fallacy, he chooses to subordinate his own ability to think logically and examine facts to the abilities of an undefined mass of others who supposedly believe in a certain way.

While it is rare for this fallacy to be used in a formal debate, such arguments are still used in many settings, including informal arguments and marketing campaigns. Claiming that "everyone knows this is true" or "nobody believes that actually happened" saves one from actually providing evidence and support for a claim, at least if no one else involved in the argument demands further evidence. A bandwagon fallacy can be effective because it suggests that, by defying the claim, one is defying the beliefs of "everyone" or of the vast majority of people. Many people are afraid that they will seem unintelligent if they challenge a belief that is supposedly held by most people.

Marketing and advertising often make extensive use of the bandwagon fallacy. Claiming that a certain brand of a product is the "most popular" or that a certain television show is the "most viewed" is a common advertising method. People who see this use of the bandwagon fallacy may feel that, because something is popular, it is good and they will not need to conduct any more research about the product or service.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Daniel Liden
By Daniel Liden , Former Writer
Daniel Liden, a talented writer with a passion for cutting-edge topics and data analysis, brings a unique perspective to his work. With a diverse academic background, he crafts compelling content on complex subjects, showcasing his ability to effectively communicate intricate ideas. He is skilled at understanding and connecting with target audiences, making him a valuable contributor.

Discussion Comments

By bythewell — On Jul 31, 2012

@irontoenail - I disagree. Objective quality has nothing to do with popularity. You can argue that reality TV is popular and is therefore successful and is therefore quality TV, but when you do that, you're measuring that show by a completely different yardstick than I want to measure it with. It's like arguing with me that because soda is popular it must be good for you.

Soda being popular only proves that it's good at being popular, it doesn't mean it has any other virtues.

By irontoenail — On Jul 30, 2012

@umbra21 - Those kinds of fallacies in arguments can have some worth though. They aren't a completely definitive argument on quality, obviously, but crowd sourcing opinion is considered a fairly respectable way of finding an opinion these days.

If someone does a decent poll, and finds out that a significant proportion of people prefer a particular brand, I'd say it's more likely that that brand is a better quality. People aren't that dumb. You can try and argue with this by saying something like, lots of people like reality TV and it has no quality. Well, sure, but it obviously is the best at gaining attention and that's the aim of TV programs.

By umbra21 — On Jul 30, 2012

Don't forget that if all you are doing is claiming that something is popular, rather than "good" you are perfectly entitled to back that up with statistics on how many people watch it.

You might still be contributing to bandwagon fallacy, but to some extent I think that's on the person who is listening to you.

There is a ton of bandwagon fallacy advertisement out there and people need to learn not to take it as more than face value. Just think of how many companies end their TV ads by saying something like "the brand preferred by more people than any other brand". You need to bear in mind that that only says something about their advertising, not about their quality. They might be most popular because they are the cheapest. They might be the most popular because they have a monopoly. You just don't know.

Daniel Liden

Daniel Liden

Former Writer

Daniel Liden, a talented writer with a passion for cutting-edge topics and data analysis, brings a unique perspective to...
Learn more
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