Truth Decay: Discussing Disinformation, Polarization and Data with Jennifer Kavanagh

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Political scientist Jennifer Kavanagh believes that there’s more behind polarization than just the existence of opposite perspectives. In 2018, she published a report with RAND CEO Michael D. Rich that proposes a framework for understanding one of the deeper issues behind the division in our country: truth decay. In a nutshell, the phrase “truth decay” describes four different trends around facts and opinion contributing to the shift away from data: increasing disagreement around facts and data, the blurring of the lines between the two, increased influence of opinion and commentary and declining trust in key institutions.

In this episode, Fred and Jennifer discuss where these trends stem from and how they’re contributing to our current national landscape. Jennifer also proposes some potential strategies for combating truth decay, including how businesspeople and scholars can uniquely respond to this national issue.

This discussion is part of our series on the 2021 Global Communication Report, available now at

For more on these topics, check out the playback of the 31st Kenneth Owler Smith Symposium at


Jennifer Kavanagh (@jekavanagh), Director of Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program at RAND Arroyo Center. Senior Political Scientist and Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School


Fred Cook (@fredcook), Chairman Emeritus of Golin, a global PR firm. Author of “Improvise - Unorthodox Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO” and Director of the USC Center for Public Relations

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