Released on January 16, 2018
Americans' reliance on facts to discuss public issues has declined significantly in the past two decades, leading to political paralysis and collapse of civil discourse, according to a RAND Corporation report.
This phenomenon, referred to as “Truth Decay,” is defined by increasing disagreement about facts, a blurring between opinion and fact, an increase in the relative volume of opinion and personal experience over fact, and declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.
While there is evidence of similar phenomena in earlier eras in U.S. history, the current manifestation of Truth Decay is exacerbated by changes in the ways Americans consume information—particularly via social media and cable news. Other influences that may make Truth Decay more intense today include political, economic and social polarization that segment and divide the citizenry, the study finds.
These factors lead to Truth Decay's damaging consequences, such as political paralysis and uncertainty in national policy, which incur real costs. The government shutdown of 2013, which lasted 16 days, resulted in a $20 billion loss to the U.S. economy, according to estimates cited in the study.
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