Three fake news stories during the 2016 presidential campaign may have convinced voters who backed Barack Obama in 2012 to switch to Donald Trump, costing Hillary Clinton the White House, according to a study conducted by Ohio State University researchers.
Seventy-seven percent of Obama voters supported Clinton in the last election. Ten percent switched to Trump, four percent went for Jill Stein, and eight percent stayed home.
The researchers asked Obama voters if they believed the bogus claims that Clinton is in poor health, Pope Francis backed Trump and that the ex-Secretary of State approved weapons sales to Islamic jihadists, including ISIS.
The survey found that 89 percent who did not believe any of the stories voted for Clinton. Sixty-one percent of those who believed one fake news story voted for Clinton, but only 17 percent of those who believed two or all of the stories voted for her.
The OSU researchers say while they cannot prove that belief in fake news “caused” former Obama voters to defect to Trump, the data “strongly suggests” that exposure to false stories “did have a significant impact on voting decisions.”
Since Clinton lost the presidency by 77,744 votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, “even a modest impact of fake news may have been decisive,” concluded OSU’s Richard Gunther, Paul Beck and Erik Nisbet.