Counting the Pinocchios: The effect of summary fact-checking data on perceived accuracy and favorability of politicians

Agadjanian, Alexander; Bakhru, Nikita; Chi, Victoria; Greenberg, Devyn; Hollander, Byrne; Hurt, Alexander; Kind, Joseph; Lu, Ray; Ma, Annie; Nyhan, Brendan; Pham, Daniel; Qian, Michael; Tan, Mackinley; Wang, Clara; Wasdahl, Alexander; Woodruff, Alexandra
Research & Politics

Can the media effectively hold politicians accountable for making false claims? Journalistic fact-checking assesses the accuracy of individual public statements by public officials, but less is known about whether this process effectively imposes reputational costs on misinformationprone politicians who repeatedly make false claims. This study therefore explores the effects of exposure to summaries of fact-check ratings, a new format that presents a more comprehensive assessment of politician statement accuracy over time. Across three survey experiments, we compare the effects of negative individual statement ratings and summary fact-checking data on favorability and perceived statement accuracy of two prominent elected officials. As predicted, summary fact-checking has a greater effect on politician perceptions than does individual fact-checking. Notably, we do not observe the expected pattern of motivated reasoning: co-partisans are not consistently more resistant than are supporters of the opposition party. Our findings suggest that summary fact-checking is particularly effective at holding politicians accountable for misstatements.