Older People Are More Likely To Believe Fake News – And Share It

by Thea Glassman
Image via Dan Brownsword/Getty

A new study found that older people are more likely to share fake news

You might want to have a quick check-in with some of the older folks in your life. According to a new report from Science Advances, people aged 65 and older are more likely to believe and share fake news online. Soooo…yikes.

The report found that 11% of people aged 65 and older shared fake news on Facebook during the presidential election in 2016 (double yikes). That’s more falsehoods than people between the ages of 45-65 spread. It also stacks higher than the slim 3% of people between the ages of 18-29 who shared B.S. stories on social media.

The average number of fake news posts spread by people in the 65 and older age bracket was a whopping 0.75.

Jonathan Nagler, a professor of politics at NYU, explained to U.S. News that younger people are less likely to share fake stories because they “may just be more savvy at identifying what may be fake.” While the study didn’t filter people by their political affiliation, Nagler noted that there’s “overwhelming evidence” that the majority of fake news stories were pro-Trump, which means that people who shared those posts leaned towards older conservatives.

The study’s co-author Andrew Guess, however, wasn’t entirely sure that we can make that leap about political preferences.

“When we bring up the age finding, a lot of people say, ‘oh yeah, that’s obvious,’” he told The Verge. “For me, what is pretty striking is that the relationship holds even when you control for party affiliation or ideology. The fact that it’s independent of these other traits is pretty surprising to me. It’s not just being driven by older people being more conservative.”

Okay, so what do we do about these new findings? Matthew Gentzkow, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, thinks that nailing down a demographic is a great start for solving the problem.

“The age result in this paper points very directly toward at least narrowing down the set of solutions that are likely to be most effective,” he told The Verge. “If the problem is concentrated in a relatively small set of people, then thinking about the interventions that would be most effective for those people is going to take us a lot farther.”

Great. In the meantime, I guess we all have the responsibility to have some chats with our loved ones who are share sketchy stories on Facebook. Good luck, y’all.