Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Fake News Did Not Affect the Election, Stanford-NYU Study Finds

A careful analysis by two economists finds that phony journalism had little influence on voters and the outcome of the election.

Despite the high volume of fake news stories on social media, new insights suggest they did not influence the outcome of the election. Rather, their impact on voters was negligible, according to a study by economists Matthew Gentzkow of Stanford University and Hunt Allcott of New York University.


Indeed, many fake new stories performed very well online. An analysis by BuzzFeed News found that fake news stories about the election consistently performed better on Facebook than real ones: more people read, shared, and discussed them. BuzzFeed editor Craig Silverman reports:

During [the final three] months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.

Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. (This analysis focused on the top performing link posts for both groups of publishers, and not on total site engagement on Facebook.)

With respect to engaging the minds of readers, fake news stories seem to have outdone real ones.

Nevertheless, Allcott and Gentzkow’s findings demonstrate how little the real impact of fake news stories was on voters and the outcome of the election. Their research draws from a robust and dynamic range sources, including multiple prominent fact-checking websites, empirical data on the relative popularity of various media outlets, existing research, and web-browsing data.

Much of the findings, however, turn on a 1,200-person post-election survey they conducted themselves online. Through it, they sought to discern a handful of key insights, including whether readers remembered the fake headlines and whether they thought the headlines were true.

The study found that, even though fake reports favoring Donald Trump vastly exceeded those favoring Hillary Clinton, fake headlines did not have a major role in swaying the election. Only 14% of respondents to the online survey reported social media as their primary source of news. Furthermore, the authors point out that those surveyed could hardly remember the fake headlines with which they were presented. The authors write:

[T]he average American saw and remembered 0.92 pro-Trump fake news stories and 0.23 pro-Clinton fake news stories, with just over half of those who recalled seeing fake news stories believing them.

Hits on social media aside, the lasting influence of these stories seems to have been nearly negligible. To put this into perspective, they note:

For fake news to have changed the outcome of the election, a single fake article would need to have had the same persuasive effect as 36 television campaign ads.

Perhaps, then, fake online news stories are not as big of a threat as they may seem to be. While they certainly can function to mislead and misinform, the study reminds us that television still remains a powerful force in the news media. Furthermore, it forces readers to resist easy, reductive answers to the question of how Trump earned so many votes.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

3 "symptoms" of atheism, as described by a Christian minister

Do you get worried or angry? Ever forget to tithe? One minister has bad news for you.

Painting by John Bridges via Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • A recently published article claims to identify the symptoms of "low-level atheism."
  • Among these symptoms are worrying, cursing, and not tithing.
  • There is a solution to all of this though, not being an atheist. Sending in money is also involved.
Keep reading Show less

Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Keep reading Show less

How Hemingway felt about fatherhood

Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.

Ernest Hemingway Holding His Son 1927 (Wikimedia Commons)
Culture & Religion

Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?

Keep reading Show less
Videos

The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast