Exaggerations, falsehoods, lies - call them what you will, fact checkers are working overtime this campaign season digging through political ads and speeches. Do facts really matter anymore on the campaign trail?
Trevor Parry-Giles, communications professor at the University of Maryland, joined The Daily Circuit Monday to talk about the "facts" we hear from politicians.
"So much of what our political leaders say is in this area of sort of vague truthiness," he said.
For many voters, getting down to the truth is outweighed by political bias.
"We generally look for, seek out and consume information — particularly about politics — that supports ideas and impressions and values that we already hold," Parry-Giles said.
Jim Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, also joined the conversation. The matter of facts isn't particularly important for people like President Barack Obama, a person most voters already have an opinion on.
"When it comes to local candidates or even sort of newly prominent candidates like Congressman Paul Ryan, I think the examination of these people's views and their assertions; I think that can make some difference," he said.
Ryan's statements are being closely watched and reported on because of the image he brought into the race as Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee.
"Congressman Ryan had had over the previous year or two a reputation in national politics and among the press as being a guy who was very careful with his facts," Fallows said. "I think he's in danger of changing that reputation by having case after case where he makes a claim that seems to be only selectively true."
Jim, a caller from Robbinsdale, doesn't think politicians care about getting the facts straight.
"I think once the lie is out there — these politicians can and do say anything — it's too late," he said.
For Fallows, a look at a politician's statements falls into two different categories: political presentation and statements of past positions, statements and actions. Politicians have always stretched the truth to fit their belief system, but the difference lies in the basis for those beliefs. If it's based on false representations of actual past recorded events, the facts can be more clearly defined.
"There is a difference between the normal tolerance for political presentation and things that go beyond that," he said.
On Facebook, Margaret Thomas suggested her strategies for monitoring what politicians say: "1) Don't watch TV during campaign season to avoid all campaign advertising — preserves sanity, maintains lower stress. 2) Listen to debates on radio to avoid influence of candidates' facial expressions/body language. 3) Read fact-check sites, realizing that reality exists somewhere between campaign claims and reporting."
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MPR News' Melissa Townsend contributed to this report.