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Public beliefs about falsehoods in news

Faculty Advisor




comparative research, democracy, internet, political psychology, media audiences, public opinion

Abstract (summary)

The circulation of misinformation, lies, propaganda, and other kinds of falsehood has, to varying degrees, become a challenge to democratic publics. We are interested in the question of what publics believe about their own exposure to falsehoods in news, and about what contributes to similarities and differences in these beliefs across countries. We are also interested in the question of whether publics report attempting to verify news that is suspect to them. Here we report on a comparative election survey in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. We find three key predictors of publics' beliefs that they have been exposed to falsehoods: discussion of news, use of social media for political purposes, and exposure to counter-attitudinal information. The nexus between these three predictors and beliefs about falsehoods exists in all three countries, as we anticipate that it likely exists elsewhere. We do not find voters on the right to be different from those on the left in the United Kingdom and France, but do find a substantial difference in the United States, which is likely due to the 2016 Trump campaign. We conclude with concerns about the imbalance in beliefs about exposure to falsehoods in the United States and the apparent capacity of a single leader, in the right context, to shape public beliefs about what is to be believed.

Publication Information

Koc-Michalska, K., Bimber, B., Gomez, D.M., Jenkins, M. & Boulianne, S. (2020). Public beliefs about falsehoods in news. International Journal of Press-Politics, Online First, 1-22. doi: 10.1177/1940161220912693


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