Article

Who believes fake news in Spain?

Nina Wiesehomeier and D.J. Flynn, School of Global and Public Affairs, IE University
Winning article of the Call to support social research projects based on the conducting of surveys, 2019.

Fake news stories have distorted recent regional, national, and European elections and undermine public efforts to address pressing crises, as for instance the current coronavirus outbreak. Populist leaders and parties exacerbate these challenges by promoting conspiracy theories and questioning the credibility of experts. We find that voters with conspiratorial and populist attitudes are more likely to believe fake news stories. Attempts to fact-check false claims often fail and, in some cases, backfire. Our results underscore the difficulty of effectively combating misinformation and the need for conducting experimental trials to identify effective corrections and prevent unintended consequences.
Key points
  • 1
       Conspiratorial and populist attitudes are related to believing fake news.
  • 2
       People who get their news from social media (Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter) are more likely to believe fake news.
  • 3
       Corrective messages that call into question more strongly held personal beliefs and convictions may backfire and increase fake news belief.
  • 4
       No source of corrective messages (institutional or individual) is more effective than any other: different types of sources create similar effects.
Prevalence of belief in fake news. Percentage of respondents who believe that the stories are true
Prevalence of belief in fake news. Percentage of respondents who believe that the stories are true

Whereas 85% of respondents considered it to be true that human activity is causing extreme weather events, the level of belief in the other claims (all of them false) was highly varied. Half of the respondents believed that patent holders were limiting the supply of cancer drugs in order to boost their profits or that genetically modified foods were unsafe. Only around 10% believed that the Spanish government was planning to replace language classes with religion classes in schools.

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