Mistrust, Disinforming News, and Vote Choice: A Panel Survey on the Origins and Consequences of Believing Disinformation in the 2017 German Parliamentary Election

Zimmermann, Fabian; Kohring, Matthias
Political Communication

In this paper, we address the question of whether disinforming news spread online possesses the power to change the prevailing political circumstances during an election campaign. We highlight factors for believing disinformation that until now have received little attention, namely trust in news media and trust in politics. A panel survey in the context of the 2017 German parliamentary election (N = 989) shows that believing disinforming news had a specific impact on vote choice by alienating voters from the main governing party (i.e., the CDU/CSU), and driving them into the arms of right-wing populists (i.e., the AfD). Furthermore, we demonstrate that the less one trusts in news media and politics, the more one believes in online disinformation. Hence, we provide empirical evidence for Bennett and Livingston’s notion of a disinformation order, which forms in opposition to the established information system to disrupt democracy.