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Partisan motivated reasoning and misinformation in the media: Is news from ideologically uncongenial sources more suspicious?

  • Katherine Clayton (a1), Jase Davis (a1), Kristen Hinckley (a1) and Yusaku Horiuchi (a1)


In recent years, concerns about misinformation in the media have skyrocketed. President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that various news outlets are disseminating ‘fake news’ for political purposes. But when the information contained in mainstream media news reports provides no clear clues about its truth value or any indication of a partisan slant, do people rely on the congeniality of the news outlet to judge whether the information is true or false? In a survey experiment, we presented partisans (Democrats and Republicans) and ideologues (liberals and conservatives) with a news article excerpt that varied by source shown (CNN, Fox News, or no source) and content (true or false information), and measured their perceived accuracy of the information contained in the article. Our results suggest that the participants do not blindly judge the content of articles based on the news source, regardless of their own partisanship and ideology. Contrary to prevailing views on the polarization and politicization of news outlets, as well as on voters' growing propensity to engage in ‘partisan motivated reasoning,’ source cues are not as important as the information itself for partisans on both sides of the aisle.


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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2017 Political Psychology APSA Pre-Conference, 30 August 2017, at the University of California, Berkeley. We thank John Carey, D.J. Flynn, Jamie Druckman, Brendan Nyhan, Joanne Miller, and Sean Westwood for useful comments.



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Supplementary materials

Clayton et al. Dataset

Supplementary materials

Clayton et al. supplementary material
Clayton et al. supplementary material 1

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