Investigating “Truth Decay”

RAND is studying “Truth Decay,” the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. One driver of this phenomenon is today’s increasingly complex information environment. There are more sources of information than ever before; the line between fact and opinion is blurring; and in some cases, disinformation is actively being spread.

Not everyone who is engaged with this information ecosystem is equipped with the skills necessary to navigate such uncertain terrain. Could media literacy education help? RAND’s latest Truth Decay report describes the field of media literacy education and looks at how it can help counter Truth Decay by changing the ways people consume, create, and share information.

Truth Decay title on public space with people and information, photo by chombosan/Getty Images

Photo by chombosan/Getty Images

Another recent Truth Decay report looks at how news has changed in the digital age. Researchers conducted an empirical study of U.S. print, television, and online news stories. They used RAND-Lex in the analysis, a suite of tools developed at RAND that combine machine learning and text analysis. The findings provide quantitative evidence for what Americans already see in the media: Opinion and subjectivity are more prevalent in journalism today than in the past. But this change has been subtle, not wholesale.

Senior political scientist Jennifer Kavanagh helps lead RAND’s work on Truth Decay. Her research has helped set a national agenda to better understand and combat the problem, to explore its historical precedents, and to mitigate its consequences.

Read more about RAND’s Truth Decay work to-date in this Q&A with Kavanagh