A study has found that fake news didn’t determine the outcome of the election!
The story of fake news is pretty much a fake news story.
From the website, Study Finds:
The new study released last month investigated the influence that fake news may have had on President Trump’s victory.
NYU economics professor Hunt Allcott and Stanford economics professor Matthew Gentzkow led the research. The pair ran a series of tests to determine which fake news articles were circulated, how much of it was circulated, and the amount of voters that believed the stories to be true.
Once they gathered an assortment of fake news stories, Gentzkow and Allcott used fact-checking resources in order to verify that these stories were fake. They then conducted a post-election survey that consisted of 1,200 voters.
Participants were asked what their primary or “most important” source of 2016 election news was. Next, they were presented with a list of true and false news stories, and asked two questions concerning each individual story. The first was whether or not the participant remembered seeing the story. The second question asked whether or not they believed the story.
Although fake news stories in Trump’s favor were shared more times (30 million compared to 8 million for Hillary Clinton), the authors of the report had determined that these stories still did not reach enough voters nationwide to change the election results.
For one, the study found that most people figured out that the stories were fake. No one was fooled into voting for a candidate based on fake news.
That makes sense. I know many people who share stories that they don’t believe are true because they think the fake news stories are funny. Essentially, fake news stories are treated as inside jokes. If that is what is going on, then “fake news stories in Trump’s favor” were shared more often because more people had already decided to vote for Donald Trump.
Note that, even though Hillary Clinton supposedly won that popular vote, those voters weren’t showing enthusiasm by sharing stories that favored her. They didn’t seem to want to talk about their favorite candidate online.
The study also found that, for sharing fake news stories to have been influential, “a single fake article would need to have had the same persuasive effect as 36 television campaign ads.” Not likely.
The study concludes not only that “fake news” didn’t determine the outcome of the election, but that “social media were not the most important source of election news.”
This is good news for conservatives. It means that even if government succeeds in censoring social media in an attempt to engineer public opinion, the effort probably won’t work. The populist groundswell that governments fear is spreading by other means.