Facts, Alternative Facts, and Fact Checking in Times of Post-Truth Politics

80 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2017 Last revised: 14 Jan 2018

Oscar Barrera Rodriguez

Paris School of Economics (PSE)

Sergei M. Guriev

Sciences Po; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

Emeric Henry

Sciences Po

Ekaterina Zhuravskaya

Paris School of Economics (PSE)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 13, 2018

Abstract

How persuasive are "alternative facts," i.e., misleading or outright false statements by populist politicians, in convincing voters? How effective is fact checking in countervailing the alternative facts? We conduct a randomized online experiment to address these questions in the context of the 2017 French presidential election campaign. Marine Le Pen (MLP), the extreme-right candidate who reached the runoff, regularly used alternative facts in support of her policy proposals, to which mainstream media responded with systematic fact checking. We expose randomly selected subgroups of a sample of 2480 voting-age French to quotes from MLP containing misleading information about immigration and/or to facts from official sources. We find that alternative facts are highly persuasive: voters exposed to MLP rhetoric move their policy conclusions and voting intensions toward MLP. Fact checking does nothing to undo these effects despite improving factual knowledge of voters. Being exposed only to official facts also backfires on voting intentions, as it increases political support for MLP (although to a smaller extent than alternative facts), despite moving posteriors about facts toward the truth.

Suggested Citation

Barrera Rodriguez, Oscar and Guriev, Sergei M. and Henry, Emeric and Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina, Facts, Alternative Facts, and Fact Checking in Times of Post-Truth Politics (January 13, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3004631 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3004631

Oscar Barrera Rodriguez

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014
France

Sergei M. Guriev

Sciences Po ( email )

27 rue Saint-Guillaume
Paris Cedex 07, 75337
France

HOME PAGE: http://econ.sciences-po.fr/staff/sergei-guriev

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) ( email )

One Exchange Square
London, EC2A 2EH
United Kingdom

Emeric Henry

Sciences Po ( email )

27 rue Saint-Guillaume
Paris Cedex 07, 75337
France

Ekaterina V. Zhuravskaya (Contact Author)

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014
France

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