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.
A recent Gallup poll shows that the public’s view of media coverage of Palin depends greatly on partisan affiliation. A majority of Republicans – 54 percent – say the coverage has been unfairly negative, while only 29 percent of independents and 18 percent of Democrats feel that way. So it is through that filter that voters will assess fact-checking. And it may well be that the wave of columns and editorials in the mainstream press expressing outrage over McCain’s statements and ads about Obama will serve mainly to satisfy McCain’s opponents, while doing little to change the minds of his supporters. How undecided voters and “soft leaners” – those not firmly in one camp or the other – are affected remains unclear.
Often, such voters don’t start really focusing on the campaign until the very end.
Other research indicates that attempts to correct misinformation are unlikely to change minds. In an experiment by two academics, volunteers were given a mock news article with potentially misleading information – half with a correction, half without. The researchers discovered that the group that received the correction may end up believing the misleading information more strongly after hearing the correction.
“The argument we make in the paper is that people are counterarguing in their heads,” says Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Duke University and one of the researchers. “They’re coming up with reasons to disagree with the factual claim, and actually convincing themselves more than they would have believed otherwise.”