Taking Fact-checks Literally But Not Seriously? The Effects of Journalistic Fact-checking on Factual Beliefs and Candidate Favorability

Forthcoming at Political Behavior

33 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2017 Last revised: 10 Jan 2019

See all articles by Brendan Nyhan

Brendan Nyhan

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Ethan Porter

George Washington University

Jason Reifler

University of Exeter

Thomas Wood

Ohio State University (OSU)

Date Written: January 7, 2019

Abstract

Are citizens willing to accept journalistic fact-checks of misleading claims from candidates they support and to update their attitudes about those candidates? Previous studies have reached conflicting conclusions about the effects of exposure to counter-attitudinal information. As fact-checking has become more prominent, it is therefore worth examining how respondents respond to fact-checks of politicians --- a question with important implications for understanding the effects of this journalistic format on elections. We present results to two experiments conducted during the 2016 campaign that test the effects of exposure to realistic journalistic fact-checks of claims made by Donald Trump during his convention speech and a general election debate. These messages improved the accuracy of respondents' factual beliefs, even among his supporters, but had no measurable effect on attitudes toward Trump. These results suggest that journalistic fact-checks can reduce misperceptions but often have minimal effects on candidate evaluations or vote choice.

Keywords: Fact checking, corrections, misperceptions, backfire effect, debunking, motivated reasoning

Suggested Citation

Nyhan, Brendan and Porter, Ethan and Reifler, Jason and Wood, Thomas, Taking Fact-checks Literally But Not Seriously? The Effects of Journalistic Fact-checking on Factual Beliefs and Candidate Favorability (January 7, 2019). Forthcoming at Political Behavior. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2995128 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2995128

Brendan Nyhan

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

735 South State Street, Weill Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Ethan Porter (Contact Author)

George Washington University ( email )

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

Jason Reifler

University of Exeter ( email )

Northcote House
The Queen's Drive
Exeter, Devon EX4 4QJ
United Kingdom

Thomas Wood

Ohio State University (OSU) ( email )

Blankenship Hall-2010
901 Woody Hayes Drive
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
1,403
rank
12,321
Abstract Views
7,740
PlumX Metrics