Countering Truth Decay

A RAND Initiative to Restore the Role of Facts and Analysis in Public Life

Painted American flag chipping and peeling off an old piece of wood

Photo by vepar5/Adobe Stock

What Is Truth Decay?

RAND defines “Truth Decay” as the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. This phenomenon has taken hold over the last two decades, eroding civil discourse, causing political paralysis, and leading to public uncertainty and disengagement.

Truth Decay is characterized by four trends:

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

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

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Key Topics

Disinformation

  • A person looks at a COVID-19 news update on their cell phone, photo by svetikd/Getty Images

    Report

    Tracking News Manipulation by Malicious State Actors

    During the pandemic, both Russia and China used authoritarian power over the media to manipulate the news. What can be done to better detect such propaganda campaigns—and guard against them in the future?

    Nov 15, 2021

The News and Social Media

  • An illustration depicting the difference between light and darkness, image by Alyson Youngblood/RAND Corporation

    Blog

    What You Can Do to Help Stop Truth Decay

    Truth Decay, the diminishing role of facts in American public life, isn't a problem that any one person can fix. But there are simple steps that individuals can take to help counter it.

    Mar 29, 2022

Civic Institutions and Democracy

  • U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the U.S. economy as Vice President–elect Kamala Harris stands by in Wilmington, Delaware, November 16, 2020, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Commentary

    Putting America's Civic Infrastructure on the Biden-Harris Agenda

    Much like our bridges and roads, America's civic infrastructure has been allowed to crumble. This has allowed Truth Decay to set in. The new administration can begin to repair the deep fissures in our society by explicitly and implicitly rehabilitating the nation's civic infrastructure.

    Nov 19, 2020

Education

  • A second grade student votes during a mock election at his school in Gainesville Florida, Nov. 3, 2020, photo by Brad McClenny/Reuters

    Article

    Want to Rebuild Public Trust? Focus on Civic Education

    Truth Decay—the diminishing role of facts in American public life—has led to political paralysis, the erosion of civil discourse, and widespread uncertainty. Investing in civic education could help turn the tide.

    Dec 8, 2020

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In the News

  • A man shouts while demonstrators arrive at Trump Tower during a protest against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Manhattan, New York, November 19, 2016

    LA Times Today: Countering Truth Decay

    RAND CEO and president Michael Rich and senior political scientist Jennifer Kavanagh discuss why understanding—and stopping—Truth Decay is so essential in our current social and political climate.

    Jan 21, 2021

  • An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021, photo by Leah Millis/Reuters

    Statement by Michael D. Rich on the U.S. Capitol Siege

    The audacity of the rioters at the U.S. Capitol and the violence they perpetrated should have no place in the political process, although tragically, and all too often, violence finds its home in the United States.

    Jan 7, 2021

Funding for RAND's Countering Truth Decay Initiative

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.

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 research initiative was provided by unrestricted gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations.

Learn more about this project