, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 303-330
Date: 30 Mar 2010

When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions

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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.

A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2006 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. We thank anonymous reviewers, the editors, and audiences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Northwestern University, and the Duke Political Science Graduate Student Colloquium for valuable feedback.