February 1, 2012
Citizens and journalists are concerned about the prevalence of misinformation in contemporary politics, which may pollute democratic discourse and undermine citizens' ability to cast informed votes and participate meaningfully in public debate. Academic research in this area paints a pessimistic picture -- the most salient misperceptions are widely held, easily spread, and difficult to correct. Corrections can fail due to factors including motivated reasoning, limitations of memory and cognition, and identity factors such as race and ethnicity. Nonetheless, there is reason to be optimistic about the potential for effectively correcting misperceptions, particularly among people who are genuinely open to the facts. In this report, we offer a series of practical recommendations for journalists, civic educators, and others who hope to reduce misperceptions.