Facts, Alternative Facts, and Fact Checking in Times of Post-Truth Politics
81 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2017 Last revised: 29 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 2019
How effective is fact checking in countervailing "alternative facts,'' i.e., misleading statements by politicians? In a randomized online experiment during the 2017 French presidential election campaign, we subjected subgroups of 2480 French voters to alternative facts by the extreme-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, and/or corresponding facts about the European refugee crisis from official sources. We find that: (i) alternative facts are highly persuasive; (ii) fact checking improves factual knowledge of voters (iii) but it does not affect policy conclusions or support for the candidate; (iv) exposure to facts alone does not decrease support for the candidate, even though voters update their knowledge. We find evidence consistent with the view that at least part of the effect can be explained by raising salience of the immigration issue.
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