Our results were unambiguous: Those who saw factual corrections were substantially more likely to express factually accurate beliefs than those who did not see corrections. By and large, the average person responded to the corrections by bringing their views closer in line with the facts. This was true across ideologies and across parties. It was also true when Democrats confronted misstatements made by Democratic politicians and when Republicans confronted misstatements made by Republican politicians. Supporters of then-candidate Trump were no different. When we ran a study on the night of his first presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, we found that a correction to a misstatement Trump uttered during the debate caused his supporters to become more accurate. Specifically, along a five-point scale, the average Trump supporter who had seen a correction was half a scale point more accurate than the average Trump supporter who had not.
We continued our research after Trump’s election and inauguration. During his 2019 State of the Union address, Trump described the southern U.S. border as “lawless.” Yet, as fact-checkers pointed out on the night of the speech, the volume of border-crossing had declined dramatically. In a study conducted that night, we presented some participants with a factual correction. When we asked all participants if they believed there was a surge of illegal crossings, those who had seen the correction were more likely to believe, correctly, that there was not. We observed particularly large gains in accuracy among conservatives who saw a correction—suggesting that Trump does not have magical abilities to dispel beliefs in factually accurate information. Indeed, corrections increased the accuracy of the average conservative by three-quarters of a point along a seven-point scale.