Truth Decay

Fighting for Facts and Analysis

Truth Decay

Fighting for Facts and Analysis

RAND is studying “Truth Decay”—the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. As a nonpartisan institution that seeks to advance the public good through research and analysis, RAND is concerned about the threat Truth Decay poses to evidence-based policymaking. We invite fellow researchers and engaged stakeholders to join our efforts to find solutions.

Defining "Truth Decay"

RAND defines Truth Decay as the diminishing role of facts and data in American public life. There are four trends that characterize Truth Decay:

  1. increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data
  2. a blurring of the line between opinion and fact
  3. the increasing relative volume and resulting influence of opinion and personal experience over fact
  4. declining trust in formerly respected sources of facts.

Most of these trends are not unprecedented in American history. But today's level of disagreement over objective facts is a new phenomenon. So how did we get here?

RAND research has investigated what's causing and compounding this problem. The main drivers of Truth Decay include

  • cognitive biases
  • the rise of social media and other changes to the information environment
  • demands on the educational system that limit its ability to keep up with changes in the information ecosystem
  • political and social polarization.

RAND's research agenda addresses these issues and much more. But research and analysis alone cannot solve the complex problem of Truth Decay. Policymakers, media companies, and individuals must also act on the basis of this research.

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Latest Findings

  • Article

    How to Increase Immunity to Truth Decay

    Americans have always held differing views about policy issues. But more and more, they disagree about basic facts. This is a symptom of what RAND calls “Truth Decay,” and it's doing severe damage to democracy in the United States.

  • Research Brief

    Truth Decay: A Threat to Policymaking and Democracy

    The line between fact and fiction in American public life is blurring. This “Truth Decay” phenomenon affects democracy and political and civil discourse, driving wedges between policymakers and neighbors alike. But research and analysis can serve as a launching point to rein Truth Decay in.

  • Commentary

    In Reckoning with Today's Truth Wars, Look to America's Past

    The declining regard for factual evidence may be a defining characteristic of our current age. Previous eras suggest it is within society's power to restore respect for objective facts. Humankind just needs to put it on the agenda.

  • Blog

    Regulation or Research? How to Reduce Truth Decay in the Media

    What is social media's role in the decline of trust in the media? Is government intervention needed to help stop the spread of misinformation? A panel of researchers discussed the connection between the media and Truth Decay at a RAND event in Boston.

  • Q&A

    The Perils of Truth Decay: Q&A with Three RAND Leaders

    Truth Decay is defined by disagreement about facts, the blurred line between opinion and fact, increased volume of opinion and personal experience over fact, and declining trust in formerly respected sources of facts. RAND president and CEO Michael D. Rich, journalist Soledad O'Brien, and political scientist Francis Fukuyama discuss the phenomenon and the search for solutions to it.

  • Commentary

    The Diminishing Role of Facts in American Public Life

    Without agreement about objective facts and a common understanding of and respect for data and analytical interpretations of those data, it becomes nearly impossible to have the types of meaningful policy debates that form the foundation of democracy.

More research and commentary on Truth Decay

Get Involved

Want to learn more about how RAND is responding to Truth Decay? Are you a researcher interested in tackling this issue? We want to hear from you.

Funding for This Project

The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous. RAND is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and committed to the public interest.

RAND Ventures is a vehicle for investing in such policy solutions. Philanthropic contributions support our ability to take the long view, tackle tough and often-controversial topics, and share our findings in innovative and compelling ways.

RAND's research findings and recommendations are based on data and evidence and therefore do not necessarily reflect the policy preferences or interests of its clients, donors, or supporters.

Funding for this venture was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations.