What happens when candidates lie?

Republican debate
With more time on camera in modern campaigns, candidates from all parties have more opportunities to get caught in a lie.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

5 lies recently told on the 2016 campaign trail

• "We spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country." -Bernie Sanders

• Hedge funder managers "pay less in taxes than nurses and truck drivers." -Hillary Clinton

• "Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases." -Ben Carson

• "92 percent of the jobs lost during Barack Obama's first term belonged to women." -Carly Fiorina

• "I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering" on 9/11. -Donald Trump

Why bother to lie when nearly everything a candidate says is recorded?

The 2016 presidential election is still nearly a year away, but candidates have been touring the country non-stop, speaking to crowds, parrying questions and digging in at debates.

This endless stream of speeches has political reporters in a flurry — and fact-checkers working overtime. So far, every candidate has shared a falsehood or two, though some are more prolific than others.

"The benefit that accrues from saying something the audience wants to hear may outweigh the penalty you'll pay on the remote chance your fib is detected," Seth Masket wrote in an article titled, "Does It Matter When Candidates Lie?" Masket is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.

Masket and Lauren Carroll, a report for Politifact, a fact-checking website, joined MPR News host Kerri Miller to discuss the falsehoods politicians have been spreading this season.

While lies land in the headlines more than they once did, Masket doesn't think modern politicians lie any more than their predecessors.

"I don't know that politicians today are more prone to lying than they were 20 or 30 years ago when trust in government was a lot higher," Masket said. "I think in many ways politicians today are held more accountable than they used to be by the media and other sources."

"Also, politicians are being recorded more," Carroll said. "There's a lot more opportunities for the candidates to say something that the entire country sees, and, as a result, there's so much more that us fact-checkers and other news outlets can identify and fact check."

Politifact investigates candidates' statements as well as viral content that spreads through chain e-mails and social media. The site then ranks content on its Politifact Truth-O-Meter. Of the statements above, all earned a "False" rating, except Trump's — his was ranked as "Pants on Fire."

But fact-checking is only effective if people believe the fact-checkers. That has become a major issue, Masket said.

"It's very typical that we hear what we want to hear. We look for confirmation of the things we already believe, and we tend to dismiss reports of things that we don't believe," Masket said. "If we hear something we like from a candidate, and there's some sort of fact-checking report suggesting that it's untrue, we may either not hear that message or we may look for ways to dismiss it by saying that the organization that did the fact-checking is biased."

To hear the full discussions on politicians, lies and what it means for voters, use the audio player above.

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