Researchers: Fake News Had ‘Substantial Impact’ on 2016 Election

“Fake news” stories seriously affected voters in the 2016 presidential election, researchers at Ohio State University concluded in a study.

The research aimed to measure how false news stories changed the minds of Barack Obama’s 2012 voters away from supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, The Washington Post reported.

The researchers noted that they could not definitely conclude that fake news was the cause of Obama voters not voting Clinton, they said that fake news stories had a “substantial impact” on voting decisions that could have been enough to swing the election to Donald Trump, the Post reported.

“Our analysis leads us to the conclusion that fake news most likely did have a substantial impact on the voting decisions of a strategically important set of voters — those who voted for Barack Obama in 2012,” the researchers wrote.

“If these estimates are even remotely accurate as measures of the impact of belief in fake news on defections from the Democratic candidate, it is highly likely that this pernicious pollution of our political discourse was sufficient to influence the outcome of what was a very close election,” the researchers wrote.

In the study, researchers conducted a survey of 585 voters who supported Obama in 2012, out of a sample of 1,600. Ten percent of those voters voted for Trump, 4 percent supported minor parties, and 8 percent chose not to vote, the Post reported.

They showed three false news stories in the research:

  1. Clinton was in “very poor health due to a serious illness.”
  2. Pope Francis endorsed Trump.
  3. Clinton approved weapons sales to Islamic jihadists.

A large percentage of the voters believed none of the fake news stories — 89 percent, the report said.

Twenty-six percent of the group believed at least one of the fake stories, and out of that group, 45 percent supported Clinton.

“Former Obama voters who believed one or more of these fake news stories were 3.9 times more likely to defect from the Democratic ticket in 2016 than those who did not believe any of the false claims, after taking into account all these factors,” the researchers wrote.

A Monmouth University poll released Monday showed that 77 percent of Americans believe that TV networks and newspapers report fake news.


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