The Spectrum

Study by researchers at OSU finds fake news likely influenced 2016 election

COLUMBUS, OH (WCMH) - For more than a year, the country has heard President Donald J. Trump complain about fake news. However, a new study suggests that fake news may be the reason he’s in the White House.

Trump has said repeatedly that Russian interference did not influence the outcome of the 2016 election, but a study by researchers at the Ohio State University found that fake news stories planted by Russian operatives likely played a significant role in depressing Hillary Clinton’s support on Election Day.

The study appeared in the Washington Post, and it’s gaining worldwide attention. One of the study’s authors, political scientist Paul Beck, sat down with NBC4’s Colleen Marshall to discuss the study’s findings on The Spectrum.

Beck and his colleagues have been involved in the Comparative National Election Project for years. The project surveys voters, asking the same questions after elections in nations all across the world.

“This time around, we added questions on fake news,” Beck said. “Fake news has become important in all western elections.”

The study found that 25% of voters surveyed believed the false statement that Clinton was in very poor health or had a serious illness. It also found that 10% voters surveyed believed the false statement Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump to be president and that 35% of voters surveyed believed the false statement that Clinton approved weapon sales to jihadists or ISIS.

Researchers broke respondents into categories based on gender, race, feelings about the economy, opinions of Trump and Clinton and more, but they still found that the false statements were at the forefront of reasons why voters chose Trump over Clinton.

“The truth is, fake news survives all of these variables,” Beck said. “It survives enough to be one of the top four factors in explaining the defections away from the democratic vote.”

Watch Colleen’s full interview with Beck above.


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