New Study Debunks Claim That Russian Bots Tilted 2016 Election For Trump
A study conducted by the New York University Center for Social Media and published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Communications has debunked claim made by liberal Democrats that the Russian government’s disinformation campaign on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. presidential election had any meaningful impact on the contest’s outcome.
According to the paper, the study is based on a survey of nearly 1,500 U.S. respondents’ Twitter activity. The researchers—who also include scholars from the University of Copenhagen, Trinity College Dublin, and Technical University of Munich—concluded that while “the online push by Russian foreign influence accounts didn’t change attitudes or voting behavior in the 2016 U.S. election.”
The researchers also noted that the disinformation campaign “may still have had consequences.”
As reported by the paper: “Exposure to Russian disinformation accounts was heavily concentrated: Only 1% of users accounted for 70% of exposures. Second, exposure was concentrated among users who strongly identified as Republicans. Third, exposure to the Russian influence campaign was eclipsed by content from domestic news media and politicians. Finally, we find no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior.”
Researcher Joshua A. Tucker, co-director of the Center for Social Media and Politics (CSMaP) and one of the study’s authors, wrote that “Despite this massive effort to influence the presidential race on social media and a widespread belief that this interference had an impact on the 2016 U.S. elections, potential exposure to tweets from Russian trolls that cycle was, in fact, heavily concentrated among a small portion of the American electorate—and this portion was more likely to be highly partisan Republicans.”
He added: “The specter of ‘Russian bots’ wreaking havoc across the web has become a byword of liberal anxiety and a go-to explanation for Democrats flummoxed by Trump’s unlikely victory.”
Another co-author, Gregory Eady of the University of Copenhagen, also cautioned that “it would be a mistake to conclude that simply because the Russian foreign influence campaign on Twitter was not meaningfully related to individual-level attitudes that other aspects of the campaign did not have any impact on the election, or on faith in American electoral integrity.”
The new study may boost arguments of observers who contend that Democrats bear much of the blame for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat by former GOP President Donald Trump. Clinton’s loss, many say, is largely attributable to a deeply flawed Democratic ticket consisting of two corporate candidates including a presidential nominee who, according to former Green presidential contender Ralph Nader, “never met a war she did not like,” and an anti-abortion vice presidential pick in Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
Read the full study here.
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