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IU experts discuss financial impact of lengthy primaries, fact checking political claims

Editors: For insights and news sources for election coverage, visit and its links to views from Indiana University experts in politics, media and culture.

April 11, 2012

These news items discuss:

Economic consequences of lengthy primary election campaigns
Navigating a sea of political claims

Economic consequences of lengthy primary election campaigns

Eric Schansberg

Eric Schansberg

Print-Quality Photo

While people speculate about the political ramifications of extended presidential primaries, Eric Schansberg, a professor of economics at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, says a longer Republican primary has consequences for the economy and consumer confidence. Schansberg explains further:

  • An extended presidential primary generates economic activity, but at the expense of "opportunity costs," or how those resources would have been used elsewhere. Schansberg notes that if the GOP nominee could be determined without a drawn-out and taxpayer-financed primary season, the same end result would be achieved without the "waste" currently seen.
  • States with later primaries have more influence on the Republican candidate selection than initially expected. Much like the competitive 2008 Democratic nomination process between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, later states prove to have greater influence as voters continue to remain undecided.
  • A primary process with an uncertain outcome means there are a greater number of possible economic policy outcomes. "When a Republican clinches their nomination, the set of possible outcomes -- while still immense -- is greatly reduced," says Schansberg, who adds that risk and uncertainty are not good for economic growth.

Schansberg is the author of "Turn Neither to the Right nor to the Left: A Thinking Christian's Guide to Politics and Public Policy" and "Poor Policy: How Government Harms the Poor." Schansberg may be contacted at 812-941-2527 or Top

Navigating a sea of political claims

During major political campaigns, such as presidential elections and the primaries that precede them, voters watch as candidates hurl negative campaign ads and loaded claims at one another. The declarations about "Romneycare" and accusations of Newt Gingrich's connections to Fannie Mae can confuse voters who may already be unsure of a candidate's experience, stance on issues or personal history.

Gerald Wright, a professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, offers a few insights into why candidates make false claims, and how voters can identify and evaluate them.

  • Candidates make false claims to win. "Candidates will always spin the facts to put themselves in a positive light, and their opponents in a negative light," Wright said. Candidates, he said, assume that the support gained from what they said will be greater than the support lost if their claim is proved to be false or incorrect.
  • Think critically and look for evidence. "People should listen to politicians critically, and they should insist on evidence before accepting claims," Wright said. He added that voters should pay attention to what he calls "inflammatory language," or the use of charged words with partisan viewpoints.
  • Seek fact-checking sources to verify political claims. Many sources exist on the Internet to help voters check the validity of the claims they hear on ads and in clips they see on the news. The Washington Post blog "The Fact Checker" is updated daily with posts that state the facts related to claims made by candidates, and challenge the claim to their "Pinocchio Test." The Tampa Bay Times, whose long-standing website Politifact has won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation and ranking of political claims on its "Truth-o-Meter." Possibly the most well-known of the fact-checking websites is FactCheck, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, where voters can go to receive detailed explanations of the truth about political claims and submit claims they have heard.

To speak with Wright, email Top

For additional assistance, contact Steve Hinnefeld at 812-856-3488 and