Brendan Nyhan: The persistence of political misperceptions


Richard Moore

When Corrections Fail:
The persistence of political misperceptions
Brendan Nyhan
Duke University
Jason Reifler
Georgia State University
April 22, 2009
An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire” effect in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.