Explore Research and Commentary by Topic

In an effort to learn more about Truth Decay and how to mitigate it, RAND researchers explore a wide range of topics—from how disinformation spreads online, to the trust that Americans place in democratic institutions, to the challenges facing schools and teachers.

Truth Decay Videos and Podcasts

Watch and listen to RAND experts talk about Truth Decay, its effects, and what we’re doing to stop it.

See all multimedia

Understanding the Threat of Truth Decay

  • The words Truth Decay over a fading American flag painted on wood

    Report

    Declining Trust in Facts and Institutions Imposes Costs on Society

    “Truth Decay” is the diminishing reliance on facts and analysis in American public life. It has many damaging consequences: the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, alienation and disengagement from political and civic institutions, and uncertainty over U.S. policy.

    Jan 16, 2018

  • Truth Decay in Europe

    Truth Decay, the diminishing role of facts in public life, is less prevalent across Europe than it is in the United States. What actions can be taken now to stop Truth Decay from spreading further—and potentially prevent its serious consequences?

    May 17, 2022

  • 'Truth Decay' in Europe Is Real, but Its Advance Can Be Slowed

    Though present in Europe, the evidence suggests that trends of Truth Decay are not as widespread or as pronounced as they are in the United States. There is still time for policymakers to intervene and limit their growth.

    May 17, 2022

  • 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.

    Jan 16, 2018

  • 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.

    May 16, 2018

  • Think Tanks in the Era of Truth Decay

    Truth Decay is the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life, and it cuts much deeper than any political party or demographic. It's why nonpartisan think tanks like RAND are as important now as they have ever been.

    Oct 22, 2020

  • 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.

    Feb 27, 2018

  • 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.

    May 22, 2018

  • 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.

    Jun 19, 2018

  • Truth Decay, America's Latest Pastime

    Detailed data and complex analysis are the foundation of decisionmaking in baseball and many other professions and occupations. But facts are out of favor in current U.S. political and civil discourse, and the public policymaking that accompanies it.

    Jul 12, 2018

Disinformation

  • 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

  • Reining in COVID-19 Disinformation from China, Russia, and Elsewhere

    During the pandemic, misinformation and conspiracy theories have spread more virulently than ever before. The vast scale of the problem means scalable solutions like machine learning could be needed to rein in the bots, trolls, and conspiracy theories being spread by bad-faith actors.

    Nov 19, 2021

  • How Truth Decay Is Fueling Vaccine Hesitancy

    A recent poll found that more than a quarter of Americans will not try to get vaccinated. The spread of misinformation and disinformation, which is rampant over social media, is one of the factors fueling vaccine hesitancy. And in turn, it's threatening our ability to end the pandemic for good.

    May 14, 2021

  • Truth Decay in the Coronavirus Moment: Q&A with Jennifer Kavanagh

    Jennifer Kavanagh, who wrote the RAND book Truth Decay about the diminishing role that facts play in making important public policy decisions, calls the unfolding situation with the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 a worst-case scenario.

    Mar 17, 2020

  • What's Being Done to Fight Disinformation Online

    With the rise of the internet and social media, false or intentionally misleading information can spread further and faster than ever before. What tools exist to fight disinformation online?

    Nov 12, 2019

  • How to Contain the Disinformation Virus

    Like COVID-19, disinformation spreads only if we help it spread. While we have all been asked to stay at home as responsible citizens to contain the virus, we should also feel responsible for making it harder for disinformation to spread.

    Apr 9, 2020

The News and Social Media

  • How Americans Consume the News

    Where do Americans get their news? What news sources do they view as reliable? And how are choices about news consumption linked to demographics or political affiliation? Results from a national survey provide insights into these questions and more.

    Dec 10, 2019

  • What Americans Think of the News—and What That Means for Democracy

    RAND researchers asked a nationally representative sample of adults about their news-consumption habits. The answers reveal clues about what it might take to address Truth Decay—the decline of facts in U.S. public life.

    Apr 28, 2020

  • American News Habits and the Challenge of Truth Decay

    RAND researchers asked people where they get their news, how reliable they think it is, and whether they seek out viewpoints that are different from their own. The results provide some new clues to help diagnose and treat Truth Decay.

    Mar 4, 2020

  • Facts vs. Opinions: How the News Is Changing in the Digital Age

    Technology has transformed how people get information. But it has also affected the way that information is produced, shared, and disseminated. How much has the presentation of news actually changed over the last three decades?

    May 14, 2019

  • RAND's Analysis of News in the Digital Age: Three Takeaways

    How has the rise of digital technology shaped the way that news is presented? RAND researchers conducted an empirical study to find out. Here's what you need to know from their findings.

    May 14, 2019

  • How the Media Can Help Fight Truth Decay

    "Truth Decay" is the diminishing role of facts and analysis in U.S. public life. As part of this phenomenon, Americans are losing faith in once-trusted sources of information, including the news. What could media organizations do to address this?

    Feb 25, 2020

Civic Institutions and Democracy

  • A poll worker disinfects booths after every use during early voting in Knoxville, Tennessee, July 17, 2020, photo by Cavin Mattheis/News Sentinel

    Project

    Conducting Safe Elections During a Pandemic

    There may be a continued need this fall for public health interventions—such as social distancing, reduced occupancy in indoor spaces, and aggressive sanitizing protocols—to limit the spread of COVID-19. How can the United States safely and securely hold its elections during this ongoing pandemic?

    Aug 5, 2020

  • Are States Ready for a COVID-19 Election?

    Is there automatic voter registration? Can citizens vote by mail without an excuse? Are there options to cast ballots early? Answering questions such as these can help determine how prepared states are to conduct elections safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Aug 5, 2020

  • An Assessment of State Voting Processes: Preparing for Elections During a Pandemic

    To conduct elections safely this fall, states need registration and voting options that can happen remotely or can enable social distancing. Based on their policies, which states are most and least prepared to do this?

    Aug 5, 2020

  • Options for Ensuring Safe Elections Amid COVID-19

    The pandemic poses a serious threat to state election plans in 2020. There is still time for states to make policy changes, but those changes come with potential risks to public safety, and to election integrity, access, and logistics.

    Aug 5, 2020

  • Voting in a Pandemic: What Americans Think About Safety, Election Integrity, and Preparedness

    As states prepare to conduct elections during the COVID-19 crisis, what are voters' perceptions about safety, election integrity, and the readiness of local officials? And how might these perceptions affect voter turnout in November?

    Aug 27, 2020

  • Do Americans Expect Safe and Secure Elections?

    The number of Americans who expect the election to be conducted safely declined slightly from May to August, from 62 to 60 percent. And the percentage of survey respondents expecting their vote to be accurately counted declined from 59 percent to 54 percent.

    Oct 29, 2020

  • How Is the Pandemic Influencing Intention to Vote?

    Changes in intention to vote and intended voting method were modest from May to August but notable nonetheless. Those with low perceptions of safety were among the least likely to vote. And among those likely to vote, there was a continued shift toward mail-in voting.

    Oct 29, 2020

  • The Drivers of Institutional Trust and Distrust

    Trust in the government, news media, and other institutions has declined in the past two decades. What factors might explain this decline? And what else do we need to learn in order to begin rebuilding public trust?

    Nov 17, 2020

Education

  • Abstract representation of civic infrastructure, image by CSA-Printstock/Getty Images, design by Pete Soriano/RAND Corporation

    Report

    Defining and Measuring Civic Infrastructure

    Is the United States in a civic crisis? Or is American democracy simply evolving? A framework for defining and measuring civic infrastructure can help answer these questions—and preserve a healthy democracy.

    Nov 30, 2022

  • How Do Teachers Approach Civic and Citizenship Education?

    Survey results suggest that, in U.S. public schools, civic and citizenship education is often siloed into specific subjects areas, such as social science. Only a quarter of educators said that these topics are integrated into all subjects or are part of the whole school experience.

    Sep 29, 2022

  • Approaches and Obstacles to Teaching Media Literacy

    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.

    Sep 23, 2021

  • Guidance for Teaching Media Literacy in Schools

    Media literacy education can help counter “Truth Decay” by teaching young people how to consume media and contribute responsibly to the information ecosystem. To this end, RAND researchers developed recommendations for implementing media literacy standards in the classroom.

    Aug 4, 2021

  • Giving Teachers the Tools They Need to Provide 21st-Century Civic Education

    The Capitol attack has rightly led to many calls for teachers to address civic education in a much more robust way in their classrooms. However, a national survey of social studies teachers suggests that teachers lack the critical training and incentives to do so.

    Feb 23, 2021

  • Media Literacy Standards to Counter Truth Decay

    Media literacy may be a powerful tool against Truth Decay, the diminishing role of facts in public life. What standards could help teachers, policymakers, and others implement media literacy education more effectively?

    Jan 19, 2021

  • Preparing Children for Civic Life in the Era of Truth Decay

    To restore the role of facts in public life, it's important for America's youth to develop strong civic skills. Students can build these skills in the classroom, but teachers need better resources and more support to help them do it.

    Dec 8, 2020

  • 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

  • The Importance of Teaching Civic Responsibility in America

    A survey of civics and social studies teachers asked what they teach, how they teach it, and what they think students need to know. Most said their students absolutely need to learn to be tolerant of different people and groups. And they want their students to see themselves as global citizens.

    Oct 29, 2020

  • Understanding Media Use and Literacy in Schools

    Schools can play a key role in fighting Truth Decay—the diminishing role of facts in U.S. public life—by teaching media literacy to students. How much emphasis do teachers and schools put on this subject?

    Jun 29, 2020

  • How Teachers Use Civics Instructional Materials

    Teachers' instructional materials provide a window into civic education in schools. Where are public-school social studies teachers getting most of their instructional materials? And how are they using these materials to teach civics?

    Jul 13, 2020

  • Social Studies Teachers' Perspectives on Key Civic Outcomes in 2010 and 2019

    High school social studies teachers play an important role in fostering the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students need to thrive after graduation. How have these teachers' perspectives on student civic development changed from 2010 to 2019?

    Aug 3, 2020

  • Social Studies Teachers' Trust in Institutions and Groups

    U.S. social studies teachers do not have a great deal of trust in many public institutions, such as news outlets and the government. This might have implications for how much they draw on or reference such institutions in their instruction.

    Aug 24, 2020

  • Media Literacy Education as a Tool for Mitigating 'Truth Decay'

    Can media literacy education help counter the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life? To find out, RAND experts analyzed what we know—and don't know—about the subject.

    Jul 11, 2019