Abstract

Using national telephone survey data collected immediately after the 2008 U.S. presidential election (N = 600), this study examines real-world consequences of inaccurate political rumors. First, individuals more willingly believe negative rumors about a candidate from the opposing party than from their party. However, rumor rebuttals are uniformly effective and do not produce backfire effects. Second, the probability of voting for a candidate decreases when rumors about that candidate are believed, and believing rumors about an opposed candidate reinforces a vote for the preferred candidate. This belief-vote link is not a result of the spurious influence of party affiliation, as rumor belief uniquely contributes to vote choice. The evidence suggests political rumoring is not innocuous chatter but rather can have important electoral consequences.

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