The explosion of "fake news," candidate flip-flops and out-and-out lies during the presidential campaign and subsequent first months of the Trump administration remarkably has done little to change how Americans view Washington's politicians.
A new and unusual study of candidate "misinformation" found that if voters liked who was dishing it, they stuck with their pick even after the falsehood was revealed or corrected. "It appears that the negative political ramifications of disseminating misinformation are limited," the study said.
The tales were so tall during the 2016 campaign that England's Royal Society Open Science took up the task to figure out how Trump won.
"Many individuals, and indeed political scientists, did not predict the success of Donald Trump. This study contributes one further piece of the puzzle as to why his success was sustained: spreading misinformation did not hinder his candidacy, and even if misinformation was exposed, this did not reduce voting preferences or positive feelings," it found.
The test of 2,023 participants reaffirmed that voters will overlook misinformation coughed up by their favorites. But Trump proved a special case.
Trump's exaggerations, misstatements and truth-tellings won a different reaction from his backers and Democrats. The study found that their biases were so large that Democrats felt Trump's misstatements were true and Republicans thought his facts were false.
"Participants on both sides of the spectrum took into account their Trump-related biases but overcorrected for them: Republican supporters overcorrected by assuming that Trump's facts were false, and Democrats overcorrected by assuming that Trump's misinformation was true," the study said.
And more importantly for Trump, his supporters care less about what comes out of his mouth than the man himself.
"While Republican supporters did update their beliefs when presented with corrections of misinformation, they did not change their voting intentions nor feelings towards Trump when the misinformation was attributed to the political figure. The degree that Republican supporters updated their belief that Trump's misinformation was false was not significantly correlated with a change in voting intentions nor feelings towards Trump. This suggests that the public, or at least Trump supporters, are not overly concerned with a candidate disseminating misinformation and seem to be looking to qualities other than veracity," said the report.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org