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Who’s sharing fake news on Facebook? Older Republicans

January 10, 2019

Very few Americans shared “fake news” on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election campaign, but those who did were disproportionately likely to be over 65, a new study has found.

The findings: The study in Science Advances is one of the first attempts by academics to work out who shares fake news online. In all, a mere 8.5% of Americans shared links to fake news sites on Facebook. The study found that 11% of those over 65 shared fake news, compared with only 3% of those aged 18 to 29.

How it was conducted: A survey of 3,500 people was conducted by pollster YouGov from April to November 2016, including a sample of 1,300 respondents who shared access to their Facebook time lines.

Partisan split: Education, income, and gender had no bearing on an individual’s tendency to share fake stories. However, there was a significant partisan difference: 18% of Republicans shared fake news links, versus fewer than 4% of Democrats. However, the researchers suggested this could be because most fake news during the campaign tended to be pro-Trump or anti-Clinton rather than because conservatives have any greater underlying tendency to share fake news.

What next? The study suggests that any initiatives to combat misinformation are better targeted at the old than the young. The correlation with age could reflect differences in digital media literacy. 

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