Why won’t you answer the question? Mass-mediated deception detection after journalists’ accusations of politicians’ evasion

Abstract: Journalists often accuse politicians of dodging questions. Truth-default theory (TDT) predicts that when journalists serve as de facto deception detectors, the audience will process the messaging through a cognitive sequence that lowers the perceived trustworthiness of the politician. Conversely, the public’s perception of the media as being generally hostile and biased in their reporting could make a journalist’s allegation of evasion enhance the politician’s credibility. We constructed political TV interviews in which a journalist falsely accused a politician of evasiveness. Consistent with serial multiple mediation as proposed by TDT, in Study 1 (N = 210 U.S. voters) a journalist’s allegation triggered suspicion, which increased perceived dodging, resulting in voters distrusting the politician. Absent a journalist’s allegation, however, people remained in their truth-default state toward the politician. Study 2 (N = 429) replicated the Study 1 results, and conditional process modeling revealed that the effect was moderated by rumination