“Exaggerated feelings of moral superiority” make liberals vulnerable to believing fake news, according to a study which looked at stories relating to Brexit and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University found liberals and conservatives are equally likely to believe untrue news stories that correspond to their worldview and dismiss factual information that undermines it, but that their reasons for doing so differ.
While right-wingers “followed their gut instinct” in order to judge the veracity of news, high levels of “collective narcissism” — strong belief in the righteousness of their ideology and of others who share it — affected how liberals respond to stories.
Examining the concept of “fake news”, Dr. Craig Harper and Professor Thom Baguley carried out three studies to look at people’s responses to true and invented news articles relating to Trump and Brexit.
After asking 722 Americans to read a positive or negative invented story about either the U.S. President or his predecessor Barack Obama, the researchers found that while participants were quite good at recognising an article was fake, they still rated the story that was favourable to their ideology as having more truth than the one that contradicted it.
The second study, which saw 570 UK residents split into ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ voters read one pro-Brexit story and one which was opposed to the EU referendum outcome, revealed participants tended to be much more sceptical about the article that went against their worldview.
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Researchers set out to understand why these reactions took place with the third study, in which a sample of 904 Americans with views ranging across the political spectrum read one positive and one negative story about President Trump, both of which were true.
Displaying the same trends as in the previous research, with participants rating the stories as more or less legitimate based on their political opinions, the study found that high collective narcissism drove liberals’ confidence in the anti-Trump piece.
While conservatives displayed some degree of collective narcissism in their response to the positive story about Trump the effect was not statistically significant, according to the study, which found that right wingers who said they were guided by intuition were more likely than other participants to believe both stories.
Presenting the study at the British Psychological Society annual conference on Wednesday, Dr. Harper said: “The concept of fake news has taken hold of political discourse since the election of President Trump in 2016, leading to the delegitimisation of media outlets across the Western world on ideological or political grounds.”
“In these studies we have shown that both Liberals and Conservatives are equally likely to believe fake news. The psychological motivations associated differ between the two groups though.
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“Liberals believe news stories to maintain a favourable feeling about their own group. But Conservatives believe news stories because of a tendency to use their gut instincts.
“Understanding the similarities and differences between groups will be important as we seek to develop strategies to reduce the growing tide of political polarisation in our democratic societies.”
Since Americans put Trump in the White House and Britain elected to leave the EU, there have been significant attempts to crack down on so-called fake news, with globalist media outlets and politicians across the West insisting that the anti-establishment votes and populist sentiment were driven by the phenomenon.
The European Commission, as well as national governments in the bloc, have unveiled a series of measures over the last few years designed to stamp out “fake news” on social media, almost all of which are bundled in with action to tackle so-called hate speech.
Algorithm changes put into effect by Facebook earlier this year, with the stated goal of fighting fake news, have given a huge boost to the liberal, establishment media while “crushing” conservative news sites, according to a data-drive report by the Western Journal in March.