According to a new study by Nottingham Trent University, liberals and conservatives are both equally likely to fall victim to the fake news trap and believe a story of less-than-reputable merit when they see it in their Facebook news feed. This is a fact that has been confirmed by other, previous surveys, so it wouldn’t have been worth much as a standalone conclusion. However, the study from Nottingham went further than the others, determining what psychological factors cause people to believe in news that is not true. Interestingly, they found that while liberals and conservatives may both fall for fake news from time to time, they did so for very different reasons.
While conservatives relied on their own “gut instinct” to judge true stories from false ones, the study found, liberals fell prey to what the researchers called “exaggerated feelings of moral superiority” when discerning real news from its fake counterpart. Both groups were more likely to believe news that confirmed their pre-existing worldview, but conservatives were much less likely to care how many others shared that worldview. For them, it came down to their core beliefs and how those were reflected in the story. For liberals, it came down to a sense of supreme moral righteousness and a belief that they were “on the right side” of a team-sport political division.
The researchers from Nottingham said liberals were suffering from “collective narcissism.”
This is a conclusion that’s too good to pass up, which is why we highlighted it here. But on the whole, we’re growing tired of the endless queries into the world of fake news. Every study that has looked at this phenomenon has come to the same conclusion: Yes, fake news was spread far and wide during the 2016 election, and yes, some of it originated from Russian sources. BUT – and this is a big but – very few people actually believed these stories on either side of the political divide. In other words, there may be a lot of fake news out there, but it’s really not having the kind of effect that Hillary apologists and Russia conspiracy theorists want us to believe.
What’s much more concerning is the quasi-fake news that we’re getting from the mainstream media, because people DO believe the tripe they read in The New York Times and see on CNN. These stories aren’t as absurd as “Hillary Gave Birth to an Alien,” but they are much more dangerous. Dripping with bias and speculative to the point of worthlessness, this onslaught of anti-Trump, anti-conservative news really does move the political needle. How can it not?
So the next time researchers want to do an investigation into the effects of fake news, we suggest they start with stories like the Michael Cohen “wiretapping” fiasco from NBC this week and worry less about Macedonian troll farms.