Donald Trump’s supporters are the biggest consumers of fake news, or news articles which spread misinformation, according to a study conducted by Oxford University.
The Guardian published the results of the massive study, which monitored close to 48,000 public Facebook pages and 13,500 politically-active U.S. Twitter users, and which was conducted in the three months leading up to the president’s State of the Union address. The study showed that a major chunk of Trump’s supporters were overwhelmingly large consumers of junk news, more than any other group.
Facebook groups propagating extreme right-wing ideologies, including “Hard Conservative,” “Women’s Rights,” and “Military/Guns,” were identified as sharing the maximum amount of fake news articles, while on Twitter, some of the identified groups included “Conservative Media,” “Trump Supporters,” (not same as the group identified as the “Republican Party”) and “Resistance.”
Hardly any of these groups cross-check the authenticity or the credibility of the news articles before sharing them with their large audiences — overwhelmingly composed of Donald Trump’s supporters. These news articles are often based on dubious sources and published by websites not tempered by misinformation. The Oxford University put 91 websites into this category.
“The Trump Support group consumes the highest volume of junk news sources on Twitter, and spreads more junk news sources, than all the other groups put together. This pattern is repeated on Facebook, where the Hard Conservatives group consumed the highest proportion of junk news.”
Another interesting aspect about the pattern of news consumption in the United States showed that it is deeply polarized. Both Republicans and Democrats have their own preferred news sources, and they seldom consume news from websites perceived as not aligning with their political beliefs.
“The two main political parties, Democrats and Republicans, prefer different sources of political news, with limited overlap,” the study concluded.
The Oxford research also revealed that Donald Trump’s supporters were more inclined to sharing fake news links — much more than any other group, including groups which may be defined as following mainstream Republicanism or even left-wing groups.
“On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share,” researchers wrote.
The study also concluded that while Donald Trump’s supporters were consuming and sharing fake news articles like never before, they were not sharing news articles published on Russian websites, contrary to popular belief.