Selective Exposure to Misinformation: Evidence from the consumption of fake news during the 2016 US presidential campaign

Guess, Andrew; Nyhan, Brendan; Reifler, Jason

Though some warnings about online “echo chambers” have been hyperbolic, tendencies toward selective exposure to politically congenial content are likely to extend
to misinformation and to be exacerbated by social media platforms. We test this
prediction using data on the factually dubious articles known as “fake news.” Using
unique data combining survey responses with individual-level web trac histories,
we estimate that approximately 1 in 4 Americans visited a fake news website from
October 7-November 14, 2016. Trump supporters visited the most fake news websites, which were overwhelmingly pro-Trump. However, fake news consumption was
heavily concentrated among a small group — almost 6 in 10 visits to fake news websites came from the 10% of people with the most conservative online information
diets. We also find that Facebook was a key vector of exposure to fake news and
that fact-checks of fake news almost never reached its consumers.