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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

"Fake news" wasn't a term many people used two years ago, but since the 2016 presidential election it has become more commonly viewed as a threat to democracy. But a recent analysis of the search histories of thousands of adults in the month around the election found that though fake news had a broad reach, even people with the largest fake-news appetite consumed much more real news overall, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: The new data could help researchers determine how influential fake news was during the 2016 election and beyond. "There's been a lot of speculation about the effect of fake news and a lot of numbers thrown around out of context, which get people exercised," Microsoft's Duncan Watts told NYT. "What's nice about this paper is that it focuses on the actual consumers themselves."

Details of the study: Three political scientists — Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College, Andrew Guess of Princeton University and Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter — analyzed pre-election survey responses and web traffic data between October 7 and November 14, 2016 from a representative sample of 2,525 Americans who agreed to have their online activity monitored anonymously.

Their findings:

  • One in four Americans saw at least one fake news story.
  • "Trump supporters visited the most fake news websites, which were overwhelmingly pro-Trump. However, fake news consumption was heavily concentrated among a small group — almost 6 in 10 visits to fake news websites came from the 10% of people with the most conservative online information diets," the researchers wrote.
  • Overall, fake news stories made up a small percentage of what the participants read: 1% for Clinton supporters and 6% among Trump supporters.
  • Americans over the age of 60 were much more likely to visit a fake news site than younger people.

Key quote: "For all the hype about fake news, it's important to recognize that it reached only a subset of Americans, and most of the ones it was reaching already were intense partisans," Nyhan told NYT. "They were also voracious consumers of hard news. These are people intensely engaged in politics who follow it closely."

Go deeper: Trump effect: a worldwide "fake news" crisis

Go deeper

Updated 26 mins ago - World

U.S. releases report finding Saudi prince approved Khashoggi operation

Photo: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released an unclassified report assessing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to "capture or kill" Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Driving the news: The White House also announced sanctions on entities implicated in the murder, though not on MBS directly. Officials also announced a new "Khashoggi ban" under which individuals accused of harassing journalists or dissidents outside their borders can be barred from entering the U.S.

About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says

Joe Biden speaks during an event commemorating the 50 million COVID-19 vaccine shots. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 5 adults and nearly half of Americans 65 and older have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday.

The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: Employers mull COVID vaccine requirements — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategyPfizer begins study on 3rd vaccine dose as booster shot against new strains.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.