Unchecked vs. Uncheckable: How Opinion-Based Claims Can Impede Corrections of Misinformation

Nathan Walter*, Nikita A. Salovich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although the prominence of fact-checking in political journalism has grown dramatically in recent years, empirical investigations regarding the effectiveness of fact-checking in correcting misperceptions have yielded mixed results. One understudied factor that likely influences the success of fact-checking initiatives is the presence of opinion statements in fact-checked messages. Recent work suggests that people may have difficulty differentiating opinion- from fact-based claims, especially when they are congruent with preexisting beliefs. In three experiments, we investigated the consequences of opinion-based claims to the efficacy of fact-checking in correcting misinformation regarding gun policy. Study 1 (N = 152) demonstrated that fact-checking is less effective when it attempts to correct statements that include both fact- and opinion-based claims. Study 2 (N = 561) replicated and expanded these findings showing that correction is contingent on people’s ability to accurately distinguish facts from opinions. Study 3 (N = 389) illustrated that the observed effects are governed by motivated reasoning rather than actual inability to ascertain fact-based claims. Together these results suggest that distinguishing facts from opinions is a major hurdle to effective fact-checking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-526
Number of pages27
JournalMass Communication and Society
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication

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