Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: How Fact-Checking Influences Citizens’ Reactions to Negative Advertising

Kim Fridkin, Patrick Kenney, Amanda Wintersieck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Electoral campaigns are dynamic and an important change in recent elections is the growth of fact-checking; the assessment of the truthfulness of political advertisements by news media organizations and watchdog groups. In this article, we examine the role that fact-checks play in shaping citizens’ views of negative commercials and political candidates. We rely on an Internet survey experiment where we vary people’s exposure to negative advertisements and a follow-up fact-check article (i.e., no fact-check, accurate fact-check, inaccurate fact-check). The results of our experiment show that fact-checks influence people’s assessments of the accuracy, usefulness, and tone of negative political ads. Furthermore, sophisticated citizens and citizens with low tolerance for negative campaigning are most responsive to fact-checks. The fact-checks also sway citizens’ likelihood of accepting the claims made in the advertisements. Finally, negative fact-checks (e.g., fact-checks challenging the truthfulness of the claims of the negative commercial) are more powerful than positive fact-checks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-151
Number of pages25
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015


  • campaigns
  • elections
  • fact-checking
  • negative campaigning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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