Australians care if politicians lie, the US does not: Attitudes to truth varies from country to country, study finds

  • Americans ten times less likely to change their opinions on politicians who lie
  • Australians are more likely to change opinions if they are knowingly deceived 
  • US president Donald Trump has made strong claims about ‘fake news’ 

Australians care more about the truth from their politicians than people in other countries, scientists have found.  

Since the election of Donald Trump it has been claimed that we have entered a post-truth world and the findings of a new study say this is true, but only for the US. 

Americans are ten times less likely to change their opinions on politicians who made untrue statements than Australians, they found.   

A survey of Australians found that elected officials caught out lying were perceived in a negative light – whatever their original view of the politician may have been.

However, this effect was vastly diminished when the experiment was done on Americans.  

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Researchers have found that Australians care if politicians lie, while people in the US do not. President Donald Trump (2nd L) stands with Malcolm Turnbull (2nd R), then Australian Prime Minister, prior to a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC in 2018

Experts from the University of Bristol asked 450 participant to taken part in an online test.

They were shown statements made by Bill Shorten, then leader of the left-wing Labor party opposition, and Malcolm Turnbull, who was leader of the right-wing Liberal party and Prime Minister of the country at the time. 

Some volunteers were shown videos with equal amounts of speeches with both factually inaccurate and true statements. 


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Others were shown an assortment of talks where the majority were false statements. 

Researchers then asked them about their opinions following the experience and how they felt about both the politicians and their voting intentions. 

They were then presented with a series of statements as well as fact-checking evidence and asked the same questions again. 


Americans were ten times less likely to change their opinions on politicians who made untrue statements than Australians, researchers found. Bernie Sanders (right) and Donald Trump (left) have both voiced their view on fake news previously 


Experts say that people [in Australia] like a politician less if they find out they have been lied to a lot. It’s a reasonably large effect. Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) and Leader of the Opposition in Australia Bill Shorten are therefore more at risk of fake news, according to a study 

People who were shown more falsehoods had drastically different views and opinions, whereas those that received a balanced mix did not. 

Fact checking, according to the research, was just as effective irrespective of the person’s opinion of the politician. 

Americans were ten times less likely to change their opinions on politicians who made untrue statements than Australians, they found.  

‘We have a lot of information now suggesting American voters don’t really care about facts, in the sense that if you tell them a politician is dishonest it doesn’t really seem to matter,’ researcher Stephan Lewandowsky told New Scientist.

‘People [in Australia] like a politician less if they find out they have been lied to a lot. It’s a reasonably large effect.’ 

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