Does truth matter to voters? The effects of correcting political misinformation in an Australian sample

Michael J Aird, Ullrich K H Ecker, Briony Swire, Adam J. Berinsky, Stephan Lewandowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

7 Citations (Scopus)
316 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In the ‘post-truth era’, political fact-checking has become an issue of considerable significance. A recent study in the context of the 2016 US election found that fact-checks of statements by Donald Trump changed participants' beliefs about those statements—regardless of whether participants supported Trump—but not their feelings towards Trump or voting intentions. However, the study balanced corrections of inaccurate statements with an equal number of affirmations of accurate statements. Therefore, the null effect of fact-checks on participants’ voting intentions and feelings may have arisen because of this artificially created balance. Moreover, Trump's statements were not contrasted with statements from an opposing politician, and Trump's perceived veracity was not measured. The present study (N = 370) examined the issue further, manipulating the ratio of corrections to affirmations, and using Australian politicians (and Australian participants) from both sides of the political spectrum. We hypothesized that fact-checks would correct beliefs and that fact-checks would affect voters’ support (i.e. voting intentions, feelings and perceptions of veracity), but only when corrections outnumbered affirmations. Both hypotheses were supported, suggesting that a politician's veracity does sometimes matter to voters. The effects of fact-checking were similar on both sides of the political spectrum, suggesting little motivated reasoning in the processing of fact-checks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number180593
Number of pages14
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume5
Issue number12
Early online date19 Dec 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2018

Structured keywords

  • Memory

Keywords

  • misconceptions
  • voting behaviour
  • Fact checking
  • belief change
  • political attitudes
  • misinformation

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