Does Fake News Affect Voting Behaviour?

DEMB Working Paper Series n.146

48 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2019 Last revised: 28 Jun 2019

See all articles by Michele Cantarella

Michele Cantarella

Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE); European Central Bank (ECB) - Directorate General Statistics

Nicolò Fraccaroli

Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs; University of Rome Tor Vergata, Faculty of Economics, Department of Economics, Law and Institutions

Roberto Volpe

Italian Ministry of Economic Development

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 12, 2019

Abstract

Over the last decade, the erosion of trust in public institutions and traditional media sources have been proceeding in parallel. As recent developments in media consumption have led to a proliferation of politically charged online misinformation, it is no wonder that many have been questioning whether the spread of fake news has affected the results of recent elections, contributing to the growth of populist party platforms. In this work, we aim to quantify this impact by focusing on the causal effect of the spread of misinformation over electoral outcomes in the 2018 Italian General elections. We exploit the presence of Italian and German linguistic groups in the Trento and Bolzano/Bozen autonomous provinces as an exogenous source of variation, assigning individuals into distinct filter bubbles each differently exposed to misinformation. To do so, we introduce a novel index based on text mining techniques to measure populism. Using this approach, we analyse the social media content of each party and their leaders over the course of the electoral campaign for the 2013 and 2018 elections. We then collect electoral and socio- demographic data from the region and, after constructing a proxy for exposition to misinformation, we measure the change in populist vote across the two groups in-between the two general elections, using a combination of difference-in-difference and two-stages-least-squares inference methods. Our results indicate that misinformation had a negligible and non-significant effect on populist vote in Trentino and South Tyrol during the Italian 2018 general elections.

Keywords: Fake News, Political Economy, Electoral Outcomes, Populism

JEL Classification: D72, P16, L82, Z13, D83

Suggested Citation

Cantarella, Michele and Fraccaroli, Nicolò and Volpe, Roberto Geno, Does Fake News Affect Voting Behaviour? (June 12, 2019). DEMB Working Paper Series n.146, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3402913 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3402913

Michele Cantarella (Contact Author)

Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE) ( email )

Largo Marco Biagi 10
Modena, Modena 42121
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/michelecantarella1992/

European Central Bank (ECB) - Directorate General Statistics ( email )

Taunustor 2
60311 Frankfurt am Main
United States

Nicolò Fraccaroli

Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs ( email )

111 Thayer Street
Box 1970
Providence, RI 02912-1970
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://watson.brown.edu/rhodes/people/nicol-fraccaroli

University of Rome Tor Vergata, Faculty of Economics, Department of Economics, Law and Institutions ( email )

Via Columbia, 2
Rome, 00133
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/view/nfraccaroli/home

Roberto Geno Volpe

Italian Ministry of Economic Development ( email )

Via Vittorio Veneto, 33
Rome, Rome 00187
Italy

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