Study: Political Truth Is MIA, Viewers Trust CNN, Facebook

On the eve of the first presidential political debate, Interpublic’s McCann Erickson unveiled a new study during Advertising Week that shows a “perceived absence of truth in politics” today.

It’s no secret that politicians have been known to stretch the truth or make up “facts” to advance their agendas of getting elected or remaining in office. But according to the study from McCann’s Truth Central research unit, the politicians are not fooling a lot of consumers: 70% of those surveyed agreed it is “impossible to find the truth” in today’s politics.

Two-thirds said that politicians are “less truthful than 20 years ago.” Asked to rank 10 professions based on trustworthiness, politicians ranked last in the study.

That said, consumers have not given up on finding accurate political information, and 70% of those surveyed said they seek out multiple news sources in their quest for truthful answers to political questions. The most trusted news source, per the study: CNN.

But Facebook also fared well, with 70% of consumers saying that Facebook was one of the few places to find both sides of the political debate in an increasingly polarized media landscape. Nearly 60% said the Internet makes it harder for politicians to lie and get away with it.

Despite the lack of truth in politics today, the top trait that voters weigh in their evaluation of candidates is truthfulness, per the study. Other key traits considered are the perceived intelligence of candidates and their commitment to their constituencies.

The study also touched on brands and found some startling similarities to politics with respect to consumer perceptions and expectations. For example, the study found that as with politicians, about half of respondents believe brands to be less truthful now than 20% years ago. As on election day, most consumers said that the truthfulness of a brand company weighs heavily in their decision to buy a product or service.

The survey also showed that Americans want similar behavior from brands and politicians. More than 60% said the top expectation for both was the ability to understand the lives of ordinary people. Nearly half the respondents said they also expect both brands and politicians to possess strong values and to tell the truth.

If a brand could run the country instead of a president, Apple would win the election, per the study. In fact, tech firms dominated the top five choices, with Microsoft, Google and Amazon also making the cut. Wal-Mart was the lone non-tech brand in the top five.

"In the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, the issue of truth has become a huge part of the national discourse," said Daryl Lee, McCann's global chief strategy officer. "Given the power consumers ascribe to technology to shape truth in politics, it should come as no surprise that consumers also think technology brands are showing the way forward.”

The study was based on an online quantitative survey of 3,000 respondents in the United States, the United Kingdom and India, supplemented by focus groups with U.S. voters identified across the political spectrum.

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