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Monday, March 07, 2011

The Spread of Political Rumors

Does the internet promote political rumors?:

Web use doesn't encourage belief in political rumors, but e-mail does, EurekAlert: Despite the fears of some, a new study suggests that use of the internet in general does not make people more likely to believe political rumors.
However, one form of internet communication – e-mail – does seem to have troubling consequences for the spread and belief of rumors. ... People are much more likely to believe false rumors that they receive in e-mails from friends and family. ...
The study involved a telephone survey of 600 Americans in November 2008, immediately after the presidential election. Participants were asked about their exposure to 10 rumors that were circulating about the two major presidential tickets, Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin.
The rumors included eight patently false statements... Participants were also asked about two true statements. ...
Results showed that use of the internet and online sources of political information did indeed lead people to encounter more rumors about the candidates. ... However, people were also more likely to see rebuttals ... as well... In the end, the overall internet use had very little effect on the number of rumors someone believed.
However,.. the ... use of e-mail led to a particularly vicious feedback loop of rumor-mongering...
The more political e-mails that participants received from friends and family during the 2008 election, the more rumors they were likely to believe. And the more rumors they believed, the more political e-mails they sent.
In addition, receiving e-mails only promoted belief in rumors about the candidate whom the person opposed, the study found. And people were more likely to share e-mails as belief in rumors about the opposed candidate increased.
"It is a self-reinforcing process that seems to amplify rumor beliefs through repetition," Garrett said. "We have people who are biased to accept the rumors they receive from friends, which leads them to forward the e-mail to other friends, who repeat the process over and over again."
All of this contributes to the survival of rumors, despite the overwhelming evidence against them...

    Posted by on Monday, March 7, 2011 at 01:08 PM in Economics, Politics, Web/Tech | Permalink  Comments (7)


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