How Truth Decay Happens

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The shrinking role of facts and evidence-based analysis in American public life poses a threat to democracy, to policymaking, and to the very notion of civic discourse. RAND has launched an ambitious research project, Truth Decay, to define and study the problem with the ultimate goal of working toward innovative solutions.

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?

Learn More

  • Truth Decay: Fighting for Facts and Analysis

    Jan 16, 2018

    RAND is studying “Truth Decay”—the diminishing reliance on facts and analysis in American public life. Truth Decay presents a threat to both evidence-based policymaking and democracy. RAND invites fellow researchers and engaged stakeholders to join our efforts to find solutions.

  • 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.

  • How to Increase Immunity to Truth Decay

    May 16, 2018

    Americans have always held opposing opinions, but more and more we disagree about basic facts. This is a symptom of what RAND calls “Truth Decay,” and it's doing severe damage to our democracy.

  • Truth Decay and the Media

    May 8, 2018

    In this Events @ RAND podcast, a panel of experts discusses the connection between the media and Truth Decay. They address the effects of changes in the information environment, including the rise of social media, the shift to a 24-hour news cycle, increasing partisanship of some news sources, algorithms and filters, and media literacy.

  • 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.

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