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The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

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Volume 13, Issue 4


Fact-Checking Polarized Politics: Does The Fact-Check Industry Provide Consistent Guidance on Disputed Realities?

Morgan Marietta
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Coburn Hall B9, 850 Broadway St. Lowell, MA 01854, USA
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ David C. Barker
  • Institute for Social Research, California State University, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819-6101, USA
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Todd Bowser
  • Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Coburn Hall B9, 850 Broadway St. Lowell, MA 01854, USA
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2016-02-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2015-0040


In the contemporary political environment of polarized claims about disputed realities, the online fact-check industry was born. These enterprises have received awards and praise but also accusations of bias and error, bringing their methods and conclusions into question. This paper examines the comparative epistemology of the three major fact-check sites: do they examine the same questions and reach the same conclusions? A content analysis of the published fact-checks addressing three disputed realties – the existence of climate change, the influence of racism, and the consequences of the national debt – suggests substantial differences in the questions asked and the answers offered, limiting the usefulness of fact-checking for citizens trying to decide which version of disputed realities to believe.


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About the article

Morgan Marietta

Morgan Marietta is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and author of The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric: Absolutist Appeals and Political Persuasion and A Citizen’s Guide to American Ideology: Conservatism and Liberalism in Contemporary Politics.

David C. Barker

David C. Barker is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute for Social Research at California State University Sacramento and author of Rushed to Judgment: Talk Radio, Persuasion, and American Political Behavior and Representing Red and Blue: How the Culture Wars Change the Way Citizens Speak and Politicians Listen.

Todd Bowser

Todd Bowser is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Corresponding author: Morgan Marietta, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Coburn Hall B9, 850 Broadway St. Lowell, MA 01854, USA, E-mail:

Published Online: 2016-02-24

Published in Print: 2015-12-01

Citation Information: The Forum, Volume 13, Issue 4, Pages 577–596, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, ISSN (Print) 2194-6183, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2015-0040.

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