Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fact Check II

A couple of days ago I blogged about such cool sites as PolitiFact and Factcheck and how they answer whether candidates and handlers and independent pains the in political ass are telling the truth, or lying, about the other candidates. And along comes this article that touches on the same subject.

It's the subhead I like: "the effect on voters is unclear."


This is an experiment waiting to happen. All you budding mass comm scholars out there, you students looking for a dissertation topic, you assistant professors desperately needing to publish to get tenure, the world waits for you to answer a simple question -- do factcheck sites actually make a difference?

Probably not.

As the article notes, we're dealing with political predispositions here.

To some extent, it’s in the eye of the beholder,” says Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “Facts derive their meaning from the context in which viewers see them.”

In other words, some people are going to care deeply that, for example, Governor Palin is making questionable or untrue assertions about her record and others won’t. “It depends on your view of Sarah Palin,” says Mr. Rosenstiel.

My earlier post had more to do with whether factcheck sites influence political knowledge, which is the focus of this blog, but attitudes (and emotions) matter as well, and they're all intertwined to create our overall impressions of candidates (or journalism profs who blog too much). A neat study could be crafted here, one that looks at whether hearing the "other side" being corrected has more influence than hearing your own side getting caught with its pants on fire. The possible dependent variables: knowledge, attitude extremity, overall impression, affective response, and on and on and on.

Someone, do this study. My plate is full.

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