comScore

Why conservatives so readily fall for fake news

There's a scientific reason why people believe in crisis actors, the deep state, and that migrants gangs are coming to take Minnesota's lake homes.

There's a scientific reason why people believe in crisis actors, the deep state, and that migrants gangs are coming to take Minnesota's lake homes. Fibonacci Blue

As of August 1, fact-checkers found that Donald Trump made 4,229 false or misleading statements during his brief presidency, enough to require a container ship to haul them whenever he travels abroad.

At the same time, he’s still supported by 91 percent of Republicans. Why the dichotomy? Science has an explanation.

The non-partisan Pew Research Center surveyed 5,000 people, presenting them with 10 statements -- five of which were factual, and five mere opinion – asking them to identify each. Across the board, people age 49 and under more accurately separated fact from pretense of fact. Or to put it less politely, those 50 and older were decidedly more gullible.

The reason, researchers speculate, is that younger people are more digitally savvy, and thus have more finely tuned bullshit meters. They’re also considerably more educated and less likely to identify with a specific party, meaning they’re less prone to confuse doctrine for truth.

This presents a problem for Republicans. As a general rule, the older you are, the more conservative you’re likely to be. Which leads us to a second study by Britain’s famed Oxford University.

Researchers there monitored 47,000 U.S. Facebook pages and 13,500 Twitter accounts, tracking who was mostly likely to read or peddle “junk news,” defined as sites that “deliberately publish misleading, deceptive or incorrect information.”

Their findings: “Hard-right” conservatives shared more fake news stories than all other groups combined. Despite their protestations, they’re also the largest consumers of fake news.

Combine the two studies, and one might conclude that conservatives aren’t propagating fraud on purpose. They simply can’t tell the difference. And that’s reflected in their choice of news outlets.

When Fairleigh Dickinson University researchers tried to equate civic knowledge with various news sources, it asked people basic questions like, "Which party has the most seats in the House of Representatives?"

Viewers of Fox News, the televised arm of the GOP, scored at the bottom of 30 popular news sources. In fact, the survey found that viewers of Fox were less informed than people who followed no news at all.

So, dear reader, the next time you see online commenters talk of “crisis actors,” the “deep state,” or migrant gangs coming to take Minnesota’s lake homes, show some mercy. They know not what they speak.