Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life

Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life. RAND Corporation.   Jennifer Kavanagh, Michael D. Rich. January 16, 2018.

 Over the past two decades, national political and civil discourse in the United States has been characterized by “Truth Decay,” defined as a set of four interrelated trends: an increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data; a blurring of the line between opinion and fact; an increase in the relative volume, and resulting influence, of opinion and personal experience over fact; and lowered trust in formerly respected sources of factual information. These trends have many causes, but this report focuses on four: characteristics of human cognitive processing, such as cognitive bias; changes in the information system, including social media and the 24-hour news cycle; competing demands on the education system that diminish time spent on media literacy and critical thinking; and polarization, both political and demographic. The most damaging consequences of Truth Decay include the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, alienation and disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions, and uncertainty over national policy.

This report explores the causes and consequences of Truth Decay and how they are interrelated, and examines past eras of U.S. history to identify evidence of Truth Decay’s four trends and observe similarities with and differences from the current period. It also outlines a research agenda, a strategy for investigating the causes of Truth Decay and determining what can be done to address its causes and consequences. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 324 pages, 2.6 MB].

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Worldwide, People Divided on Whether Life Today Is Better Than in the Past

Worldwide, People Divided on Whether Life Today Is Better Than in the Past. Pew Research Center. Jacob Poushter. December 5, 2017.

Fifty years ago, the world was a very different place. The United States and its allies were locked in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, personal computers and mobile phones were the stuff of science fiction, and much of the world’s population had yet to experience substantial improvements in life expectancy and material well-being.

How far do people around the globe think they and others like them have come, compared with 50 years ago? Pew Research Center put that question to nearly 43,000 people in 38 countries around the globe this past spring. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 15 pages, 574.29 KB].

Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out?

Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out? Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. William R. Morton, Wayne Liou. September 12, 2017

Social Security’s income and outlays are accounted for through two federal trust funds: the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. Under their intermediate assumptions and under current law, the Social Security trustees project that the DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2028 and the OASI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2035. Although the two funds are legally separate, they are often considered in combination. The trustees project that the combined Social Security trust funds will become depleted in 2034. At that point, revenue would be sufficient to pay only about 77% of scheduled benefits.

[PDF format, 21 pages, 890.68 KB].

Middle Class: Winners or Losers in a Globalized World?

Middle Class: Winners or Losers in a Globalized World? Center for Global Development. Nancy Birdsall. August 3, 2017.

Globalization is under attack in the West. The debate among pundits is no longer about whether globalization is to blame or not. It is about why globalization is now the bugaboo it has become.

Is the resistance to globalization grounded in economic losses for the once-secure middle class citizens of the Western-style democracies, and the fear of future losses for them and their children? Has anti-globalization grown because the growth of trade has brought economic competition from China, reducing high-wage manufacturing jobs, and more immigrants taking once steady working class “trades” and construction and other service jobs? Or is the anti-globalization movement (Trump’s America First) a by-product of what we call, in the United States, the “culture wars?” Is the rise of protectionism and anti-immigrant, nationalist xenophobia fundamentally about inchoate resentment of a new “cosmopolitan” elite: the corporate “Davos men,” bankers, lawyers, “experts,” even academics, whose globalist attitudes and networks are unmooring Western societies from allegiances to traditional nationalist, ethnic, and religious customs and values? [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[HTML format, various paging].

How Americans Perceive the Workplace: Results from the American Working Conditions Survey

How Americans Perceive the Workplace: Results from the American Working Conditions Survey. RAND Corporation. Nicole Maestas et al. August 14, 2017.

For many Americans, the workplace is hectic, hazardous, and physically demanding — yet many retirees would still consider rejoining the workforce if the right opportunity came along.
Those are just a few of the results from the American Working Conditions Survey — one of the most in-depth surveys ever undertaken about the American workplace. This brief presents highlights from the survey, conducted by investigators from Harvard University, the RAND Corporation, and the University of California, Los Angeles.
(Half of American workers say that they work in their free time to meet workplace demands, 63 percent feel that they are doing useful work, and 46 percent of retirees age 50 and older say that they would return to work if conditions were right.) [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 8 pages, 1.52 MB].

Globally, People Point to ISIS and Climate Change as Leading Security Threats: Concern About Cyberattacks, World Economy Also Widespread

Globally, People Point to ISIS and Climate Change as Leading Security Threats: Concern About Cyberattacks, World Economy Also Widespread. Pew Research Center. Jacob Poushter and Dorothy Manevich. August 1, 2017.

People around the globe identify ISIS and climate change as the leading threats to national security, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The survey asked about eight possible threats. While the level and focus of concern varies by region and country, ISIS and climate change clearly emerge as the most frequently cited security risks across the 38 countries polled. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 32 pages, 1.29 MB].

Is Europe An Optimal Political Area?

Is Europe An Optimal Political Area? Brookings Institution. Alberto Alesina, Guido Tabellini, and Francesco Trebbi. March 23, 2017

In “Is Europe an optimal political area?” Harvard University’s Alberto Alesina, Bocconi University’s Guido Tabellini and University of British Columbia’s Francesco Trebbi examine 15 EU countries and Norway from 1980-2009 to determine if the so-called European political project was “too ambitious.”
The authors examine cultural differences among European citizens along fundamental dimensions such as trust, obedience, and religiosity, finding that European cultural differences are widening in spite of an increasingly more economically integrated Europe from the 1980-2009. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 58 pages, 1.49 MB].