Blue Truth, Red Truth

Both candidates say White House hopefuls should talk straight with voters. Here's why neither man is ready to take his own advice

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Two Men, Two Realities
To see just how easy it is to be fooled, one need only visit the controlled confines of the university laboratory. In the spring of 2006, Nyhan and his research partner Jason Reifler of Georgia State University gathered conservative and liberal students to test their resistance to factual information. They asked the group to read an article that included President George W. Bush’s claim that his tax cuts had increased revenue for the U.S. Treasury, which was provably false. Then they added a factual correction: the Bush tax cuts led to a three-year decline in tax revenue, from $2 trillion in 2000 to $1.8 trillion in 2003.

The correction worked among liberals, but among conservatives it produced a curious backfire effect: conservatives were nearly twice as likely to say the Bush tax cuts increased revenue after they had been told this was not true. Such distortions are not limited to the conservative mind. The researchers presented an article showing John Kerry’s claim from 2004 that he would “lift the ban on stem-cell research” imposed by Bush, followed by corrective information: Bush never actually banned stem-cell research; he prevented federal money from funding research on a subset of embryos. The true information had a corrective effect for conservatives and moderates but no impact on liberals. Once again, personal views had intervened. “The more we care about politics and the more it becomes central to our worldview, the more threatening it becomes to admit that we are wrong or our side is wrong,” Nyhan concludes. The studies show that facts that contradict our biases actually have the effect of reinforcing them.

(MORE: Obama’s Tax Stance: Averting a Class War Within the Democratic Party)

Even more factual information might seem like a good solution to this problem. But the reality is more complex. Researchers have demonstrated in similar conditions that pieces of false information, once heard, establish themselves as “belief echoes” that can persist even after a falsehood is corrected. There is also a tendency among those with more information to be more biased against reality. In 2006, Danielle Shani, then a Princeton graduate student, analyzed a large-scale election survey taken in 2000 that asked voters for evaluations of the Clinton presidency while gauging their levels of political knowledge. She found that more-knowledgeable voters actually showed more bias. Democrats and Republicans, for example, differed predictably on whether the Clinton presidency had improved or damaged national security. But among highly informed Democrats and Republicans, the differences were more stark. When asked if the budget deficit had increased under President Clinton, those with more information exhibited a bias 5.5 times larger than those who knew less.

The bias extends to how people digest news. In a 2007 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, participants were asked to rate the bias contained in a single news report that was alternately identified as originating from Fox News, CNN and a fictional television station. Simply changing the brand attached to the report changed people’s views of the information. People made assumptions about the veracity of the news independent of what the news actually reported. “As a result, individuals sometimes create bias even when none exists,” concluded authors Matthew Baum of Harvard and Phil Gussin of UCLA. The effect was stronger among those who knew more about politics.

One hint as to why this is the case can be found in other research on the interaction between emotion and fact. Some of the same emotional impulses that lead voters to seek out more information — concern, insecurity and fear, for example — skew their ability to accept accurate information. A 2008 Nyhan and Reifler study asked some research subjects to write a few sentences about a time when they had upheld a value that was important to them. The idea was to get subjects feeling good about themselves before they had their political biases challenged by facts. The exercise worked: when presented with evidence that the 2006 Iraq troop surge had reduced the number of insurgent attacks there, supporters of withdrawing U.S. forces from the country were more likely to accept the validity of the surge after a self-affirming exercise than without the exercise. Self-confidence allowed people to overcome their biases.

MORE: TIME Talks to Romney About Business, Budgets and Beliefs

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167 comments
WillHayes
WillHayes

It is not an implicit statement at all.  Barry O has been claiming to seek a 'balanced approach' while raising taxes on everyone(in the form of regulation, corporate taxes, and new compliance mandates - taxation by fiat, because he can not forge consensus with anyone).  OBama has not cut one penny from anything.  Even after the sequester, defense might be the only area of government spending to experience any year to year decline.  Defense, and everything else spending will still be much higher than the first mammoth budget Obama rammed through as president elect, in 2008(over Christmas around midnight - zero Republican votes).  So, yes, if you are going to raise spending and lie an call it a cut, then revenue will definitely be necessary.  Unfortunately, taxes cut growth more than lack of insane federal spending.  Obama's plan will not work, and I don't think even he thinks it will, but he thinks he will be able to blame the right, and the sheep like drudown will fall in line.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

Eventually, we will all be Blue.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

Repubs = Return to DARK AGES

Dems = The Age of ENLIGHTENMENT

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

GREEDY, SOCIOPATH Romney MADE-OFF like MADOFF and ENRON.

SAVE the American Middle and Working Class.

VOTE the DEMOCRATIC TICKET.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

SOCIOPATH Romney's World =WAR w/ Iran;Cold WAR w/ Russia;WAR PROFITEERING;World WAR III;WAR on Women;WAR on 47%;WAR on Environment;Secret WAR on Middle Class;Nuclear WAR;ARMAGEDDON: Prophecy Fulfilled;Give HOPE a CHANCE. VOTE the DEMOCRATIC TICKET.

juc103
juc103

It's true... Mitt didn't support an anti-abortion bill with no exceptions for rape or incest.  He supported a personhood amendment to the Constitution, as he declared openly to Mike Huckabee... which not only would include no exceptions, but would outlaw many forms of the birth-control pill.  Or at least he's on the record as having agreed to it on television, but I guess he's kind of in the habit of saying whatever sounds good at the time (and then putting out a statement retracting it a few hours later).  He really needs to start figuring out his official campaign position BEFORE getting asked about it on TV.  (Or I suppose he could just he could just have some intrinsic principles of his own, for once?)

alwaysavailable
alwaysavailable

This article has been buggin' me all week.  Mr Scherer presents this article as if both candidates lie just as much as the other.  Although you have to read carefully to see that he does say Obama does more "subtle distortion" which makes his "lies" more effective because they are closer to the truth.  WTF!!!!  Obama and his campaign are nowhere on the playing field with Romney and his campaign when it comes to lying.  And where are Mr. Scherer's creditials to be a fact-checker?  I disagree with the Obama fact checks #2, 4, 5, 6, and 9.  Mr. Sherer, I think it is you who relies of "gimmickry" with your assesments of their statements.  And Romney's fact check # 6, 7, and 10 should be labeled false, not misleading.

ConfusedAndIndependent
ConfusedAndIndependent like.author.displayName 1 Like

"Lying and getting away with it" was probably raised to a whole new level with Clinton - "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."  He was re-elected when most everyone knew he was lying.  Partisanship trumped character to many voters.

Incredulus45
Incredulus45

 Did Stephanie Cutter actually say anything that was incorrect?  It is interesting that this article never said that her complete statement was wrong. 

Will someone, anyone, please tell us if she was right or wrong about Mitt Romney's claims about 1999-2003. Was she incorrect or correct about misleading the SEC being a felony?

alwaysavailable
alwaysavailable

I stand corrected. Romney came out today and of course, flip-flopped on his abortion stance; saying he has no plans to change any legislation dealing with abortion. But he didn't do that before this article was printed. When does serial flip-flopping start to count as a lying?

alwaysavailable
alwaysavailable

THis article says Obama's ads about Romney's abortion stance are not true. But I don't think Romney put much effort in letting in be known publicly that his view was different from his party's; which says they want to ban in all circumstances.

Meg Pierce
Meg Pierce

This is an interesting article, but it could be more specific in what it means by saying that people held on to their biases after being informed of the facts. For example, when it discusses how John Kerry said he would lift the ban on stem-cell research, then clarified that Bush hadn't put a ban on research, but rather didn't allow the government to fund stem-cell research. The writers explain that people still held onto their biases. I am curious how this was proved, because for me, a person who believes that stem-cell research is essential to discovery and science, the clarification doesn't change the basic idea that Bush inhibited stem cell research. If I support stem-cell research, and Bush votes not to allow government funding towards such research, I would side with the other guy. So I'm interested in how the study measured bias exactly, because that isn't clarified in this article.

 

Additionally, it states that more informed people were more biased and that their ideas changed according to the source of the information. Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the source of the information as important as the information itself in understanding the information. For example, if O'Reilly says that Obama is Muslim, isn't that very different from CNN reporting that Obama states he is Muslim? Understanding a newspaper's bias is essential to understanding the information, just as understanding the audience is essential to how a newspaper reports its information. If I support Obama's policies I don't give a damn if he's Christian or Muslim, in the same way that if I support stem-cell research the difference between Bush banning it, and Bush cutting government spending to it, wouldn't change the way I feel about the candidates. So if I know that Fox is reporting Obama is a Muslim, that they are doing so as an act of defamation, because they are catering to a crowd that is afraid of that word, a Christian audience. Whereas if CNN were to say Obama is a Muslim, I would be curious as to where this development came from, because I know they wouldn't be doing it as an act of defamation.

If I am Pro-Choice, then whether it was Romney or his running mate who tried to pass a law banning abortion even in the case of rapes, wouldn't change my voting decision based on the clarification that Romney declared he would support abortion in cases of rape. To say that someone lied and the examples of the lies in this article, most of which, at least in the beginning, which was as far as I read before I had to interject, seem to be subtleties of language rather than outright deception about their policies, are not in themselves game changers. Voters don't care about the subtleties in language, we understand hyperbole in advertising. We aren't voting on he said, she said, down to the tiniest diction of the voters. We care about the big issues.

It's not that we necessarily read to affirm our values either, but that we read media that shares the same basic premises that we begin with. For example, as an agnostic humanist, I am not going to share the premise that having a Christian president is an American value. If I were a Pro-Life Catholic I would not entertain an audience of people suggesting that women should have the right to choose or if I believed that homosexuality was against the teachings of my religion I would not listen to those saying it was ok, I suppose. I am always more interested in liberal on liberal criticism, conservative on conservative criticism, because that is where the criticism is based on the same set of premises and thus makes the most sense.

Understanding media reports involves having a complex understanding of the biases of the sources and of the premises of the organization reporting those sources, thus I am curious to know why the study concluded that the more informed voters were those who were more biased. Couldn't it be argued that the observations of the informed voter changed according to the credibility, credibility based on that particular media outlets biases, of the sources? Whereas a less informed or educated voter would be more likely to take all their information at face value and be therefore swayed by any new information regardless of where it came from.

WAKEUP48
WAKEUP48

The title should be changed to Blue LIE Red LIE...

Until we STOP voting for the 2 headed monster this country is doomed.. Its a shame what they did to Dr. Paul, he was our last chance for this country to be the loved country that once was...

kailaHI
kailaHI

It is difficult to tell what the truth is when there are obvious nuances being ignored.   About the abortion and rape/incest issue ... Romney said he would support a "personhood amendment."     That would certainly mean there would be absolutely no abortions.   Just check the facts at http://www.plannedparenthoodac...

SmilingSmartBlonde
SmilingSmartBlonde

Only 17% of Romney voters and 12% of Obama voters were willing to say their own man had deceived.Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012...

So people feel loyal to the candidate that they trust, despite the facts?

Are the citizens unduly influenced by repetitive misleading political ads?

 Could this be a product of the Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling, whereby citizens can have free speech to say whatever they please, with  total impunity? Did I get that right?

Michael Pennell
Michael Pennell like.author.displayName 1 Like

This article was incredibly insightful as to why lying works for both the left and right.  However, one perspective you missed is how the process and environment forces “honest” men to lie.  Regardless of their views, both Obama and Romney are by most accounts good, honest, smart men who have taught their children not to lie and would not likely lie unless the process forced them to. I expect these guys do not lie to their family, friends, coworkers and other people in their circle - they are probably some of the best citizens, leaders, husbands, fathers and all around humans the US has ever nominated for president.   Can you imagine either of them lying to their wives? Yet they lie to us because they have to in order to get the job.  That is just sad.

LaPortaMA
LaPortaMA

It is too very easy to forget that under most circumstances, especially this kind of mudslinging political dirtiness,  "facts" -- even if substantiated  -- do not often add up to "Truth." (The cap-T is deliberate.)   Remember that "rhetoric" is the art of making the listener/reader feel something, a manipulation; thus, by definition, a false use of words. This is not strategy -- a word overused -- but tactics.

Colbert's neologism "truthiness" had a lot to offer. Everyone knew what it meant  -- and what it didn't mean. The medium is still the message.

Hard to believe and very dispiriting  that these two men are the best leadership  the USA has to offer. I guess we get what we deserve; such is democracy.

RRDRRD
RRDRRD like.author.displayName 1 Like

"They asked the group to read an article that included President George W. Bush’s claim that his tax cuts had increased revenue for the U.S. Treasury, which was provably false. Then they added a factual correction: the Bush tax cuts led to a three-year decline in tax revenue, from $2 trillion in 2000 to $1.8 trillion in 2003"See, here is where the problem lies; MSM  - such as this publication - either does not know what the truth is or they are willing to misrepresent the truth in support of the left wing.  It is not "provably false" and the change was not a "factual correction.  Bush's first tax cut was voted on in 2001 but many of its cuts were phased in over 9 years.  The drop in 2001 had nothing to do with the Bush taxes and everything to do with the recession he inherited and the impact of 9/11 on the stock market and other economic factors (all basically the result of the Clinton era's misguided approach to security and intelligence).  In 2003, the 2001 cuts were accelerated and enhanced - revenues rose immediately (prob ably in part because  of an inevitable recovery from the factors )AND CONTINUED TO RISE FOR FOUR YEARS - specifically until the election of a Democratically controlled congress killed economic progress.

Conservatives rejected claims to the contrary because they were false.

Christie Mayo
Christie Mayo

from the article: 

Obama was speaking about a campaign ad from Mitt Romney that falsely claimed that the President had eliminated the work requirement for welfare. The ad was unmistakably deceptive. But just five minutes earlier in the very same press conference, Obama had offered some misdirection of his own. “Nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon,” he said. In fact, one of the President’s senior strategists, Stephanie Cutter, told reporters a month earlier that Romney was misrepresenting himself either to the American people or to securities regulators — “which is a felony,” she said.

That is equivalent !!!  Only 5 minutes before--" nobody is accusing him of being a felon"-- Obama told the truth. A month before, a staff member made a comment saying it is a felony to misrepresent oneself to regulators. 

PeteG2
PeteG2

Here is what’s important about this election: 

 

Millionaire Mitt Romney pays 14% total taxes (fed, state, local,

and corporate) on estimated $36 million investment gains. He has said he would

sign Ryan's budget that would reduce his federal tax rate to 1%. A minimum-wage

worker pays 34% total (fed, state, local) taxes on $14,500 annual wages. This

is not only unfair, but is destroying our economy and democracy. http://fairsharetaxes.org

Shane Olsen
Shane Olsen

"Under Obama's plan (for welfare), you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.  -From Time magazine (under the red truth) which for reality it stated : obama granted waivers to states that asked for flexibility in making welfare-to-work more effective at ENDING DEPENDENCY. this is so far from the truth it's ridiculous, i happen to a woman who has been receiving a state check to look for "work" at the workforce development center to "apply" to jobs she will never be hired for let alone actually be trained for a skill or trade. She collects 800$ a month for 2 straight years. It seems though she has mastered the art of fraud and ripping off  hard working taxpayers, she has 3 kids and receives 700$ in food stamps( she sells 500$ worth of them. In what day and age are we living in , where a a person we does NOTHING INTENTIONALLY receives more then a MORALLY CORRECT SINGLE MOTHER who works a low wage job?!!!!!! Does applying for jobs that wouldn't hire you in the first place sound like "work" to you Alex?

Jarkold
Jarkold

Interesting article on a frustrating reality.  I found myself wishing for a live sound effects that might embarrass them into honesty and reality.  Perhaps a buzzer for a lie, honk for a distortion, whistle for an exaggeration.. and a live scoreboard.  Sad to realize such a thing is needed (and probably available somewhere) and that no politician would ever allow  it live. 

The current practice continues to undermine any trust we may have in either party, the election process, politicians and, where complicit, the media.

calipeach82
calipeach82

Thanks, Michael Scherer, for this great piece. This will be the third presidential election I've been eligible to vote in, and as usual I'll be voting Libertarian. I used to consider my vote a "least of 3 evils" decision, but reading this galvanized my third-party status. Now, I consider my ballot a vote against the status quo in politics. The article's conclusion leaves the solution in the hands of voters, and I for one will use my vote to express my thoughts on the dysfunctional two-party system that operates on platforms of lies. To sum up: I'm over it.

Adrian Max Patten
Adrian Max Patten

" Stephanie Cutter, told reporters a month earlier that Romney was misrepresenting himself either to the American people or to securities regulators — “which is a felony,” she said."

This does not even compare.  Romney's examples are plain untrue.   The examples meant to make Obama look just as bad are at worst misleading.  I took Cutter to be saying Romney is misrepresenting himself to the American people.  Either that, or I'm a monkey's uncle.

katya21
katya21

Someone, correct me if I am wrong. I was a member of my high school debate team and assumed that a 'debate' ensues when one HAS a position and attempts to DEFEND it vigorously!  The operative word here being defend.

samgfromdc
samgfromdc

This is the sorriest attempt at false equivalency that I've ever read. Your indictment of the Obama campaign cites three falsehoods: (1) a one-time charge by an aide that Romney may have committed a felony. (2) the statement in two Obama commercials--not by the candidate himself--that Romney opposed all abortions which you say and I will accept is not true. and (3). Obama's statement about renewable energy which is partly but not entirely true.

By contrast, (1)you cite a Romney ad which you say makes the "unmistakeably deceptive" claim that the President had eliminated the work requirement for

welfare. You fail to point out that both Romney and his running mate themselves have repeatedly told that lie  on the stump, and cite nothing comparable that Obama and/or Biden themselves have done. (2) you say that Romney's central claim  that he can cut income tax rates 20% and still raise the

same revenue with the same progressivity by eliminating deductions and

loopholes "is not possible" "using traditional budget scoring."(3) you fail to mention the Romney/Ryan lie that Obama has taken $716 billion from Medicare, something that's been debunked by every major fact-checking organization.  In short your report is ridiculous.

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012...

Joshua Sterns
Joshua Sterns

Dose this bilateral cornucopia of lies occur in democracies/republics with more then two political parties? Perhaps Washington was right. We need more then two choices for the leader of this country.

Balkingpoints.com
Balkingpoints.com

#p2 #ctl #Debate Potshots / part 4;  

- A big reason #Romney may not have played so well to America - Media Inc win declarations nothwithstanding: In that split screen config, Mitt had an ungodly smug smile on his face that did not change throughout the Obama answer segments. It was robotic, false and only likeable to RWNJ's.

Balkingpoints.com
Balkingpoints.com

#p2 #ctl #Obama #debate Potshots / part 3;  

- The C-Span feed was split screen all night, and as I understand it all networks show the same pool feed. You have to realize that you are getting all those air minutes for your reactions. 

Obama needs to shake his head much more at Romney lies - which of course were on steroids last night. You know that going in. Object to it every minute.

Albin
Albin

Given the ideological poles in this election, the "swing" voters are purely and simply the idiot voters who don't want to vote for the loser.  They're not brilliantly complex Cartesian doubters agonizing about policy and principle, they're just waiting to find out what the majority will do and jump on the bandwagon, so they can say they had it right.  That's why "momentum" is a big deal and why losing it, for whatever reason, is very bad for Obama. 

Balkingpoints.com
Balkingpoints.com

#p2 #ctl #Debate Potshots / part 2; 

#Mitt kept lying that a 5 trillion tax cut isn't his plan. At the end of the segment Obama said "ok" to the last lie. Don't cave there. Romney can't make it disappear now, that he's had a Trickle Down scheme since he started running as a GOP'er.

 - Obama needs to trumpet the universal coverage aspect of Obamacare, not gloss over it. It's 32 million covered who have been shafted by Romney's "private market" for decades - and that also means it protects anyone now covered, who loses that coverage in a job loss. Americans will hear that if you say it. Don't discard that chip.

Balkingpoints.com
Balkingpoints.com

#p2 #ctl #Debate Potshots;

 - #Obama had too much "we agree" early in the debate. It gave Romney equivalence. Don't do that.

 - Jim Lehrer - as I mentioned yesterday - sucks. When he lets  Mitt dominate the verbiage and not cut him off, Obama needs to step in and break it up with an (isolated) interruption. He did so late, but waited too long to go to it.

- Obama said a couple of times what he "wants to do" in a second term. Don't frame it that way. It's what you "will do" in your second term. You're not the challenger.

Tom Massey
Tom Massey

We need less government, because politicians are LIARS.

Thomas Lam
Thomas Lam

If your small business is losing money because the people you employed are grossly incompetent, do you close up shop and declare the business venture a failure? It's our fault that the government is filled with crooks because it was our votes that put them there. Instead of declaring government itself a failure, maybe we need to examine why it is that year after year we continue to vote for people who are more interested in making money out of politics than they are in actually running the country.

Thomas Lam
Thomas Lam

The question every Republican ought to be asking themselves is not 'Who can beat Obama?' but rather 'what are my candidate's plans?' I keep wondering whether or not people are actually listening to what Romney is saying, or understand the fundamental principles that would shape his leadership. His entire campaign strategy is to keep telling people what wonderful things he will do, but without providing the detailed breakdown of how he would do it. It takes about five minutes to look up his plan to see that he is probably going to be a whole lot better for the wealthiest American's than he will be for everyone else. I have to hand it to him though, watching the debate last night made me realize that he is obviously a skilled salesman. He is selling us an empty box by promising that it contains all our hopes and dreams inside. Republicans...caveat emptor.

Tom Massey
Tom Massey

I'm looking for TIME's in-depth look at Obama's religion of Black Liberation Theology. Time Magazine is not interested in the truth.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 And obviously neither are you if you bring up that tired old chestnut

Mike P
Mike P

but suddenly, now the polls will matter! the cultist won the first debate so he will get a little bump and WOW what a difference that will make!

Bob Ho
Bob Ho

WARNING: the last four years have been deleted by Obamagod. Any reference to the last four years is a racist hate crime. Violators will be marked as terrorists and executed by drone strike. no trial. no appeal. Have a Chicago day!

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Warning George Bush was never President. A democratic President was the cause of the financial meltdown. Any reference otherwise is a sign of liberal ignorance. Violators will be forced to listed to Hannity and  O'Reilly with a side of Beck and Palin until their brains are mush. Have a Texas day!

humilitybeliever
humilitybeliever

and another thing...

It worries me sick if Romney gets elected. He will not have a chance to do rehearsals like he is doing for this debate, and when he runs his mouth without rehearsal it can be a disaster for this country (ex. the comment he made about palestinians).

MatrixIsHere
MatrixIsHere

Blue pill?  Or the red pill?  The truth is that we're heading towards world government.  And no candidate will ever tell you that.  Which is why THEY've been spewing lies and deception for over 100 years now. 

"World government will be achieved, but it is a matter of conquest or consent by the people."

salstress
salstress

lol the idea of Time fact-checking anyone.

HolyChrist
HolyChrist

Humans should be on the side of humans.  Businesses are not human.  Help the people and businesses will thrive. Companies only hire when people buy their products and services.  They pay their salaries using the money they get from those same people. Companies do not create money out of thin air, they must sell first. Help the people, help the economy.  Obama 2012.

MatrixIsHere
MatrixIsHere

How do you believe in God and Obama in the same instance?  Haven't you realized that power figures are false prophets by now?

HolyChrist
HolyChrist

Read my name as an exclamation. 

skibbles
skibbles

One last thing, this was a good article. Foood for thought.