Australian voters are 10 times more likely to change their view of a politician caught lying to them than voters in the US, a new study has found.
According to the report published in New Scientist, fact-checking is a genuine counter to Aussie politicians who regularly make false statements, whereas in the US it has far less likely to have an impact.
“We have a lot of information now suggesting American voters don’t really care about facts, in the sense that if you tell them a politician is dishonest it doesn’t really seem to matter,” researcher Stephan Lewandowsky said.
The team of researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK said the results were likely a result of Australia’s mandatory voting system and the more polarised political climate in the United States.
“People like a politician less if they find out they have been lied to a lot,” Mr Lewandowsky said. “It’s a reasonably large effect.”
“There are buffers against extremism in the Australian system that don’t exist in the US.”
The results reflect the current political climate in the United States, where President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are low but steady — a sign he may be reelected in 2020 despite being proven to have told hundreds of falsehoods while in office.
Some of Mr Trump’s biggest whoppers include blaming November’s deadly California wildfires on poor forest management and claiming Middle Eastern terrorists were members of a caravan of Latin American migrants seeking asylum in the United States.
In the Australian study, 450 people were shown statements made by then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor Party leader Bill Shorten.
Some participants were shown an equal mix of true and false statements while some were shown mostly falsehoods.
When they were shown the same statements with a short fact checks, the feelings and voting intentions of those shown mostly falsehoods changed significantly.
Surprisingly, fact checking was just as effective no matter what the participants’ initial views of Mr Turnbull or Mr Shorten.
According to the report, a follow up study in the US used statements by President Trump and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
American voters were 10 times less likely to change their view of a politician who frequently made untrue statements.
The findings do not mode well for Democrats who on Thursday regained control of the House of Representatives and are under immense pressure to investigate President Trump and stop a second term Trump administration.
The US government is currently in one of the longest shutdowns on record, with President Trump refusing to pass new legislation until the Senate gives him billions of dollars in funding for his border wall.
Ebony Bowden contributed reporting from New York City.