It is the latest in a series of studies showing that people on the political right tend to not only be the target of fake news, but to believe it is right.
The small but intense study, conducted by communications specialists Kelly Garrett and Robert Bond at Ohio State University, shows more compelling but false stories that tended to support conservative beliefs, while viral news that was also true they tended to support the beliefs of the liberals.
It does not cover the pandemic period, although the research team is conducting a similar study that now analyzes the information and misinformation of the pandemic.
“The idea that American conservatives are uniquely likely to have misperceptions is widespread but has not been systematically evaluated,” Bond and Garrett wrote in the journal Science Advances.
They developed a social media news and reporting analysis system and used the YouGov social media monitoring service to blow up the headlines of 1,200 volunteers who agreed to report their feelings on the reports between January and June 2019.
“Every two weeks we obtained social media participation data for 5,000 news items that had the most interaction in the last seven days,” they wrote. Each item was carefully checked.
“They all had a relationship with American politics in some way,” Garrett told CNN. People who identified themselves politically as independent were excluded from the group, and Garrett and Bond tried to keep the same people in the group from month to month for consistency.
“According to other studies, we find that American conservatives are more likely than liberals to have misperceptions,” they wrote.
They found that the most viral stories used to appeal to conservatives. Only 10% biased towards liberal views.
“Topics were selected based on engagement with social media, suggesting that these are the issues that Americans would most likely encounter online,” they added.
“Analyzes suggest that conservatism is associated with a lesser ability to distinguish between true and false claims on a wide range of political issues and with a tendency to believe that all claims are true. The study also shows that the trend of “Conservatives to have misperceptions is partly explained by the political implications of this widely shared news. True socially involved claims tend to favor the left, while falsehoods disproportionately favor the right.”
“These results underscore the importance of reducing the right-leaning disinformation offer.”
The researchers found that conservatives were a little less likely to believe really true stories.
“It’s tempting to try to read this as proof that conservatives are more biased or somehow psychologically predisposed to misperceptions. We can’t say,” Garrett said.
Conservatives may be more objective. “We have evidence that the media environment is shaping people’s misperceptions,” he added. “Our data suggest that the composition of the media environment is playing a big role now.”
Garrett and colleagues are now studying a group of volunteers looking for pandemic and misinformation information. he has not yet looked at any of the data, but suspects he will find what other studies have also shown: that people who identify as conservatives are also more vulnerable to misinformation about the pandemic and vaccines.
President Biden said on Wednesday that he had urged more Americans to get vaccinated.
“Getting the vaccine is not a partisan act. Science was done under Democratic and Republican administrations. In fact, the first vaccines were authorized under a Republican president and widely developed by a Democratic president, deployed by a Democratic president,” he said. said Biden said in a televised speech.
It is unclear what can be done to reduce the burden of false information. While it is sometimes obvious that a report is a lie, it often seems that people honestly believe that the false information they are spreading is true, Garrett said.
Social media companies have said they are trying to do more to curb the spread of false information and Garrett said studies indicate that data verification also works, though not necessarily immediately.
“It’s not that a single fact-checking message shifts people en masse from one belief to another,” he said. And that would be illogical anyway: people probably don’t say “they’re right and everything I thought before was wrong,” Garrett said.
“But over time they add up.”
People can also make a difference with a polite commitment. “When you see someone online, you may want to call the wind to try to enter data control,” Garrett said.
“But scientific research suggests that challenging inaccuracies, talking when someone says something that’s not true, can make a difference.”