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Does Fake News Matter to Election Outcomes? The Case Study of Taiwan's 2018 Local Elections

  • Wang, Tai-Li (National Taiwan University, Graduate Institute of Journalism)
  • Received : 2020.01.28
  • Accepted : 2020.05.12
  • Published : 2020.05.31

Abstract

Fake news and disinformation provoked heated arguments during Taiwan's 2018 local election. Most significantly, concerns grew that Beijing was attempting to sway the island's politics armed with a new "Russian-style influence campaign" weapon (Horton, 2018). To investigate the speculated effects of the "onslaught of misinformation," an online survey with 1068 randomly selected voters was conducted immediately after the election. Findings confirmed that false news affected Taiwanese voters' judgment of the news and their voting decisions. More than 50% of the voters cast their votes without knowing the correct campaign news. In particular, politically neutral voters, who were the least able to discern fake news, tended to vote for the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) candidates. Demographic analysis further revealed that female voters tended to be more likely to believe fake news during the election period compared to male voters. Younger or lower-income voters had the lowest levels of discernment of fake news. Further analyses and the implications of these findings for international societies are deliberated in the conclusion.

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