Does the threat of a media watchdog keep politicians honest? A new study suggests that fact-checking tends to keep our public officials from stretching the truth.
Researchers at Dartmouth and Georgia State University found that candidates during the 2012 election who got letters informing them they were part of a project involving fact checkers were more likely to tell the truth than candidates who got letters that failed to mention the fact checking.
In fact, those who were unaware they were being checked for accuracy were three times as likely to say something not truthful.
“When you remind people about the threat that fact-checking might pose to their political career, there’s less indication of their being inaccurate,” said Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan. “The threat of fact-checking probably matters.”
It does not appear the authors were testing for how accurate any given politician may or may not have been before the study, merely whether the knowledge of watching eyes had any impact on a politician’s behavior from that moment forward.