Politicians who lie 'more likely to be re-elected', study suggests

Silhouette of the Houses of Parliament at dusk.
Are politicians who lie more likely to be re-elected? (Getty)

A new Spanish study has discovered something that many of us won’t find surprising – many politicians are liars.

The research also found that politicians who are members of major parties are more likely to be liars – and that liars are more likely to be re-elected.

The study (which relied on asking 816 Spanish mayors to self-report the result of a game similar to a coin toss) found that not only are many mayors prone to fibbing, those who lie seem to be more likely to be re-elected.

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Researchers from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra asked mayors to complete a survey, and told that they could get a personalised report if they got “heads” in a coin toss.

The researchers write, “At the end of the survey, the mayors were told that they would receive the report only if they obtained heads in a self-reported coin flip.”

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The researchers found that 68% of the mayors said they got heads (whereas in reality, 50% of them would have done so).

The researchers were then able to analyse the characteristics of mayors who had reported a “heads” results to find out more about lying politicians.

The researchers found that male and female politicians were equally likely to lie, according to the research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Politicians who had been re-elected were also more likely to lie, the researchers found.

The researchers wrote: “We find that a large and statistically significant proportion of mayors lied.

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“Mayors that are members of the two major political parties lied significantly more. Finally, we find a negative relationship between truth-telling and re-election in the next municipal elections, which suggests that dishonesty might help politicians survive in office.”

The researchers said that too little work has been done on understanding lying in politics, and that voters want to know which politicians are averse to lying.

“Voters who would like to accurately evaluate the performance of politicians in office often rely on incomplete information and are uncertain whether politicians’ words can be trusted,” they added.

“Honesty is highly valued in politics because politicians who are averse to lying should in principle provide more trustworthy information.”