Are deceitful politicians impervious to scrutiny? A test of voters’ truth-default

International Communication Association 71st Annual Conference, Mass Communication division, Denver, CO, United States.

Abstract: Truth-default theory (TDT) holds that people tend to passively believe others without consciously considering whether they are being told the truth. But do voters have a truth-default toward politicians? In an experiment, voters across the U.S. (N = 294) watched a news interview in which a politician was either honest or deceptive. Party affiliation was also manipulated. Consistent with TDT, thought-listing tasks revealed that most voters did not mention deception after exposure to the  campaign interview. Voters largely defaulted to the truth even when sustaining outgroup partisan exposure and deception, and when asked about the politician’s demeanor. Filling out closed-ended scales, though, voters reported distrust, suspicion, and perceiving deceptive messaging. Discussion concerns implications of voters’ perceptions of a politician’s veracity varying based on how voters are prompted.

David Clementson  Tong Xie 

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