Published: April 10, 2024


This paper presents results from a series of online surveys—conducted among American voters during and after the (President Donald) Trump administration—that show how voters (both Republican and Democratic) provide explicit moral justification for politicians’ statements that flagrantly violate the norm of fact-grounding. Such justification is inconsistent with prevailing theory, whereby partisan voters’ tendency (due either to laziness or bias) to mistake misinformation for fact is the only factor responsible for their positive response to misinformation purveyed by partisan standard bearers. The studies presented in this paper provide consistent evidence of such factual flexibility. Yet they also provide consistent evidence of moral flexibility, whereby voters justify demagogic fact-flouting as an effective way of proclaiming a deeply resonant political “truth.” A key implication is that political misinformation cannot be fully eliminated by getting voters to distinguish fact from fiction; voters’ moral orientations may be such that they prefer fact-flouting. More general lessons pertain to the role of democratic norms in liberal democracies and to how moral orientations relate to perceived interests.

Why do people support politicians who make blatantly false statements?

A forthcoming study dug into this phenomenon and found that people knowingly support falsehoods when it aligns with their personal politics.

The research, led by Minjae Kim of Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and co-authored by Oliver Hahl of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and Ezra W. Zuckerman Sivan of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, sought to discern why people support politicians who disseminate information that is not truthful.

Read the full article here.