How partisan voters detect deception in polarizing political media

Abstract: The public considers politicians to be deceptive. Empirical research, however, indicates voters fail to notice deception from politicians in practice. An experiment was run in which U.S. voters (n = 133 Democrats, n = 138 Republicans) watched a partisan news interview featuring a senator. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: a Fox News interviewer accusing (or not accusing) a Democrat of deception, or a CNN interviewer accusing (or not accusing) a Republican of deception. Consistent with truth-default theory (TDT), voters distrusted a politician through elevated suspicion toward the politician, followed by perceiving deceptive messaging. Also in line with TDT, in-group/out-group bias drove perceptions of deception. However, moderated multiple mediator modeling indicated voters reacted the same regardless of whether the media accused the politician of deception.

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

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.

The power of political journalists as deception detectors and how politicians reactivate voters’ truth-default

Abstract: Journalists serve as deception detectors for voters. Sometimes politicians refute journalists’ assertions. How do voters discern whom to believe? Based on cognitive sequences posited by truth-default theory (TDT), experiments tested voters’ reactions to alleged deceptiveness in a political news interview. In Study 1 (N = 209) perceptions of a politician being truthfully or falsely accused of deception depended on voters’ projected motive for deception by journalists. In Study 2 (N = 259) voters did not vary in their reactions to a politician whether or not the politician refuted a bogus allegation of evasion—with the exception of voters who perceived very low or high deceptive demeanor from the politician. Consistent with TDT: (a) voters seem to automatically believe journalists, (b) projected motive for deception buffers against being misled, and (c) a politician’s believability is largely based on misleading demeanor cues.

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