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

  • Brendan Nyhan
  • Ethan Porter
  • Jason Reifler
  • Thomas J. WoodEmail author
Original Paper

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 Factual misconception Corrections Public opinion Misinformation Backfire effect 

Notes

Supplementary material

11109_2019_9528_MOESM1_ESM.tex (106 kb)
Electronic supplementary material 1 (TEX 106 kb)
11109_2019_9528_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (132 kb)
Electronic supplementary material 2 (PDF 132 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ford School of Public PolicyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.School of Media and Public AffairsGeorge Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PoliticsUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  4. 4.Department of Political ScienceThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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