Ideological Asymmetry in the Reach of Pro-Russian Digital Disinformation to United States Audiences

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Despite concerns about the effects of pro-Russian disinformation on Western public opinion, evidence of its reach remains scarce. We hypothesize that conservative individuals will be more likely than liberals to be potentially exposed to pro-Russian disinformation in digital networks. We evaluate the hypothesis using a large data set of U.S.-based Twitter users, testing how ideology is associated with disinformation about the 2014 crash of the MH17 aircraft over eastern Ukraine. We find that potential exposure to disinformation is concentrated among the most conservative individuals. Moving from the most liberal to the most conservative individuals in the sample is associated with a change in the conditional probability of potential exposure to disinformation from 6.5% to 45.2%. We corroborate the finding using a second, validated data set on individual party registration. The results indicate that the reach of online, pro-Russian disinformation into U.S. audiences is distinctly ideologically asymmetric.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Communication
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)168-192
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - disinformation, misinformation, fake news, political psychology, Russia, Ukraine, partisan selectivity, ideological asymmetry, communication studies, Political Science, Twitter, social media, social data science

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