Andrea Prat, Columbia University. "Is Journalistic Truth Dead? Measuring How Informed Voters Are about Political News"
Department seminar. Andrea Prat is Professor of Economics at Columbia University. He will present the paper: "Is Journalistic Truth Dead? Measuring How Informed Voters Are about Political News".
Are voters able to distinguish real news from fake news? We develop a methodology that combines a protocol for identifying major mainstream real news stories, a quiz administered to survey participants, and the structural estimation of a model that disentangles individual information levels from news story salience. We focus on news about US domestic politics in a monthly sample of 1,000 US voters repeated 8 times. On average, 59% of individuals confidently identify the major real news story of the month, 39% are uncertain, and 3% confidently identify it as false. Also, 12% of individuals believe fake news stories. While partisan congruence affects whether an individual believes a specific news story, socioeconomic characteristics play a larger role in determining information precision. Our results indicate that the starkest pattern about the ability of voters to identify major news stories is not the generalized death of truth or its ideological polarization but rather its unequal distribution along socioeconomic lines.