Fact checking politicians gets results

October 18, 2013, University of Exeter
Fact checking politicians gets results
USA flag.

New research indicates that American politicians are affected by the practice of fact-checking, thereby reducing the risk of misinformation and strengthening democratic accountability.

Fact-checkers such as PolitiFact and Factcheck.org scrutinise in the US by examining the public statements given to and reported by news organisations.

This practice is born out of concern that traditional media rarely evaluates the accuracy of the politicians statements, resulting in political figures being frequently allowed to make misleading comments in the press without challenge.

Social scientists, Professor Jason Reifler from the University of Exeter and Professor Brendan Nyhan, Dartmouth College, USA conducted research on the effects of fact-checkers on candidates and legislators at lower levels of government. This target group receive relatively little scrutiny and are sensitive to potential threats to re-election. The possibility that fact-checking might help deter politicians from making inaccurate claims that would attract the attention of fact-checkers was tested during the 2012 campaign.

Research was carried out by evaluating the effects of reminding state legislators about the electoral and reputational threat posed by fact-checking. The study compared the behaviour of a group of state legislators who were sent warning letters from fact-checking with a comparable control group of legislators.

Professor Reifler said:"The results suggest that state legislators who are reminded of the electoral and reputational threat from fact-checking do change their behaviour. They are also less likely to receive a negative PolitiFact rating or have the accuracy of their statements questioned publically. These findings suggest that fact-checking can play an important an important role in proving political discourse and increasing democratic accountability."

Explore further: The 'Death panel' myth hard to correct: Researchers examine the effectiveness of fact checking

More information: www.newamerica.net/publication … fact_checking_threat

Related Stories

Attempts to correct 'death panel' myth may backfire

January 16, 2013

Efforts to correct false beliefs about health care reform may backfire, depending on individuals' political views and level of knowledge, suggests a study in the February issue of Medical Care.

US debate battle starts on Internet

October 3, 2012

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will not wait until the end of their first debate to proclaim themselves the winner or deny each other's claims—their online teams will already have done so.

Spanish-language media help shape public policy

February 23, 2012

Spanish-language media in the United States play a critical role in shaping perceptions of public opinion among Latino voters and public officials of every ethnicity across the country. They also play a far greater advocacy ...

Recommended for you

Unprecedented study of Picasso's bronzes uncovers new details

February 17, 2018

Musee national Picasso-Paris and the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) have completed the first major material survey and study of the Musee national Picasso-Paris' ...

Using Twitter to discover how language changes

February 16, 2018

Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, have studied more than 200 million Twitter messages to try and unravel the mystery of how language evolves and spreads.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (7) Oct 18, 2013
3.5 / 5 (6) Oct 19, 2013
And yet Republican Americans continue to vote for perpetual and congenital Liars
Captain Stumpy
2 / 5 (16) Oct 19, 2013
if they are politicians, they are liars, period.

doesn't matter WHAT party...

and the voters still put them in...
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 19, 2013
Dog bit man type of research--you would hardly expect anything different. Politicians care about their reputation and get a letter warning that they are in the sights of factcheckers. Any surprise they turn down making false statements? You do not make science by adding the word "behavior" to trivial findings: you make it by finding what is unexpected--what about those politicians (there was a group effect with individual exceptions) that in spite of receiving such letters did not change or became worse in spite of the warning--man bit dog type of research.
Oct 19, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1.5 / 5 (15) Oct 19, 2013
"The results suggest that state legislators who are reminded of the electoral and reputational threat from fact-checking do change their behaviour."

Another example of how smaller govt is more responsive. Note that the study was of STATE legislators.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.