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

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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

The News and Social Media

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

    Nov 19, 2020

    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.

Education

  • Teacher Mary Yi works with fourth-grade students at the Sokolowski School in Chelsea, Massachusetts, September 15, 2021, photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Report

    Approaches and Obstacles to Teaching Media Literacy

    Sep 23, 2021

    The majority of U.S. public schools address media literacy competencies in some manner. But according to K–12 teachers, instruction is unevenly implemented, at best, and obstacles are common. Media literacy education also varies across schools of different ethnic compositions and poverty levels.

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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

    Jan 21, 2021

    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.

  • 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

    Jan 7, 2021

    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.

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.

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