“Fake news” stories favoring Donald Trump far exceeded those favoring Hillary Clinton but might not have had as big an impact on the presidential election as first thought, concludes a new survey of social and other media consumption, reports Poynter.
The study is co-authored by economists Matthew Gentzkow of Stanford University and Hunt Allcott of New York University. It will be released Wednesday afternoon on their websites and Monday as a working paper on the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research’s website.
Conventional media analysis was wrong, they found, as they challenged a widely held view put forth by (among others) Cass Sunstein, a prominent legal scholar and former university colleague of theirs in Chicago who ran the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs early in the Obama Administration and is now back at Harvard Law School.
In his 2001 book, “Republic.com” Sunstein argued that the country is moving toward a society where “people restrict themselves to their own points of view — liberals watching and reading mostly or only liberals; moderates, moderates; conservatives, conservatives; neo-Nazis, neo-Nazis.”
“In summary, our data suggest that social media were not the most important source of election news, and even the most widely circulated fake news stories were seen by only a small fraction of Americans. For fake news to have changed the outcome of the election, a single fake news story would need to have convinced about 0.7 percent of Clinton voters and non-voters who saw it to shift their votes to Trump, a persuasion rate equivalent to seeing 36 television campaign ads.”