Who Reads More Fake News? And Does It Matter?

No one says the phrase ďfake newsĒ more than President Donald Trump, though he generally uses it to describe stories where a reporter mistakenly got a fact wrong (and subsequently corrected the record) or that are unflattering to his leadership. The real fake news stories, if youíll forgive the oxymoron, are those that are all over the internet, blatantly spreading lies about political figures for clicks and as propaganda.

Three politics professors hailing from Dartmouth College, Princeton University and the University of Exeter just released a study that set out to determine who read fake news in the month leading up to the election, as well as what kind of impact fake news may have had on the election itself. Hereís what these academics found:

WHOíS READING FAKE NEWS?

You may expect that with Trump throwing the term around so often that itís the liberals who read the most false stories masquerading as truth, but the research doesnít reflect that reality. Rather itís far-right conservatives who consume this news at a rabid pace.

Roughly 65 percent of clicks to fake news sites come from among the 10 percent of Americaís most conservative citizens. Itís a stat thatís corroborated by previous and separate research that determined reading fake news is primarily a problem for people on the right.

Altogether, just 27 percent of Americans read fake news in the weeks preceding the 2016 election, indicating that either the reach of fake news wasnít as prevalent as many would expect, or the majority of Americans are media savvy enough to question the source before clicking a link with an outrageous headline.

To that point, media literacy is probably a factor considering the study also found that senior citizens were a lot more likely to visit fake news sites than their younger counterparts. Generally speaking, younger generations are a lot more familiar with the internet and able to scrutinize their content in a way that people who did not grow up with computers might not.

HOW MUCH OF A PROBLEM DOES FAKE NEWS CAUSE?

While itís obviously not positive for the country to be overcome with fake news, the research also contains some information that will probably come as a relief for most people.

For starters, fake news stories are but a small part of Americansí news intake. Only 6 percent of the articles Trump supporters clicked were patently false, with just 1 percent of them being false for Clinton supporters. In other words, the vast majority of news Americans read during the campaign was true, suggesting that Americans were primarily grounded in reality.

On the downside, people who read the most fake news also were less likely to visit a fact-checking website of any sort. Just half of people who encountered fake news stories also visited a fact-checking authority on any matter, not necessarily the issue seen in a fake news story. Again, though, since itís the heavily partisan people who are most likely to go down a fake news rabbit hole, arguably it didnít sway any votes.

Because the research does not get into whether internet surfers believed the fake stories or considered them more important than the real news they consumed, we donít have a complete picture of just how much of an impact fake news has had, but at least thereís reason to believe it may not have been as damaging as initially thought.

WHY TRUMP MAY WANT TO SHUT UP ABOUT FAKE NEWS

The bottom line is that if anyone benefited from fake news, it was Trump. About 80 percent of fake news stories were slanted to benefit Trump, meaning he might be better off not suggesting that his fans check their sources. Then again, his strategy may very well be to exaggerate the extent of fake news so people start questioning the critical yet legitimate content about him, as well.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

69 comments

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Babout a month ago

Leanne K.,
So true. It matters little whether one is liberal or conservative. The more extreme the person, the more likely they are to adhere to this.

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Leanne K
Leanne Kabout a month ago

Some people will read and quote anything or anyone if it suits their agenda, especially racists and misogynists. They will insist its fact and dont care if it isnt or if its entirely logical..

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Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bediniabout a month ago

Rhoberta E
I tried reading it as you suggest but it doesn't work. John's whole sentence is: 'My belief is that anyone who cannot disseminate the truth from fallacy, either choose not to, are unwilling or unable to seek the truth for whatever reason.' See what I mean? Sorry John, to criticise because I always read you with interest, but precisely because you have interesting things to say I think it's important you choose the right words to say them!

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta Eabout a month ago

brian f
I hope you were able to watch Ms. Maddow and Ms. Reid tonight !! Great reporting on the " I'm like so smart" POTUS AND the Russia investigation.
Do you watch in secret?

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Brian F
Brian Fabout a month ago

Corporations own both parties, and our media, and MSNBC, CNN, and FOX news lie all the time. An example is Israel which is portrayed as the victim by our corporate media, when they are the oppressors of the Palestinians. Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders are unfairly treated by MSNBC, CNN, and Fox news, because they want to end the corruption in our government.

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Joan E
Joan Eabout a month ago

That entire portion of the nation is fed nothing but lies, and they don't know it. They believe Trump when he lies to them that the legitimate news reporters are the liars. We can't have sane elections when so many people are brainwashed, not to mention the Republicans who take citizens off the voting rolls and cheat in other ways so they can maintain power they don't deserve and don't know how to use properly.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta Eabout a month ago

@ Annabel Bedini
I am wondering if the word used by john was meant to imply that the "news outlets" were disseminating false facts in their reporting to the "masses"
It is up to the individual receiving that information to distinguish it's validity by checking FOR the facts themselves.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bediniabout a month ago

John Casablanca

You say '...anyone who cannot disseminate the truth from fallacy....' Presumably you mean 'distinguish'? Disseminate means to spread abroad. It worries me that no-one else seems to have noticed this error. If you lose touch with the meaning of the words you use anything can mean anything, and it seems to me that this can feed into the dissemination (true meaning) of Fake News as real news. Nothing means what it says any longer. Please be more careful.

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Pat P
Pat Pabout a month ago

I am really sick of that overused term that was started by Trump --as anything he (or a supporter) doesn't agree with or like--also, in an attempt to create propaganda. I don't read or listen to anything that I believe can't be fact-checked and obvious liars (esp. the pathological ones).

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