Can Voters Tell When Politicians are Lying?

“… Dishonesty in politics is a long-standing tradition. Many politicians have clearly benefitted from telling voters what they want to hear or what they want to believe, and history is filled with examples of politicians lying to cover up crime and corruption.”

“Dishonesty in politics is important because it poses a threat to electoral accountability. Citizens who can detect political lies are more safeguarded against attempted manipulation by elected officials. This in turn incentivizes politicians to avoid disseminating blatantly false information, lest they be punished by the electorate in the future. On the other hand, if the public largely fails to detect politicians’ mendacity, this poses challenges to the free and fair dissemination of ideas—and debate thereof—that comprise political discourse. Politicians who can convince a large swath of the public to believe their lies would have outsized impact in the shaping of public opinion.”

“Predominately, citizens are left to rely on their intuitive lie detection when evaluating the trustworthiness of politicians’ statements, and … they are not particularly good at doing so, even when they are not blinded by partisanship.”

Featured article:

*Mattes, K., Popova, V., & Evans, J. R. (2023). Deception Detection in Politics: Can Voters Tell When Politicians are Lying? Political Behavior, 45(1), 395-418. [PDF] [Cited by]

“In this study, we investigate voters’ unaided perceptions of whether politicians are lying. We conduct an experiment in which participants attempt to uncover politicians’ dishonesty by watching videos of their speeches. We find that verbal cues (specifically, the amount of detail in the speech) and general demeanor cues explain the success (failure) of veracity judgments far better than paraverbal and nonverbal cues. We also find evidence of a truth bias—people are more likely to judge statements to be true than false—despite the political setting, where voters might have been more skeptical. However, gender plays a deterministic role for veracity judgments in political context; female politicians are more likely to be judged as honest.”

See also —

Integrity and honesty: do they really matter?

Who do you believe?

Clues to deception; who is telling the truth?

Propaganda and deception in politics

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