DP12220 Facts, Alternative Facts, and Fact Checking in Times of Post-Truth Politics

Author(s): Oscar Barrera, Sergei Guriev, Emeric Henry, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya
Publication Date: August 2017
Date Revised: November 2018
Keyword(s): alternative facts, elections, fact checking, fake news, voting
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12220

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 alt-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 also increases support for the candidate, even though voters update their knowledge.