The consensus opinion in every corner of mainstream media is “fake news” helped propel Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.

Do you believe that headline story?

If are a Hillary supporter, most likely you do. Facts, however, suggest otherwise.

Please consider Did fake news help elect Trump? Not likely, according to new research.

“Fake news” stories favoring Donald Trump far exceeded those favoring Hillary Clinton but did not have a significant impact on the presidential election, concludes a new survey of social and other media consumption.

The study, which also downplays the political impact of social media in general, is co-authored by economists Matthew Gentzkow of Stanford University and Hunt Allcott of New York University.

The paper is worth consideration especially given overriding press assumptions about the potency of ideologically driven news coverage.

In part, Gentzkow and Shapiro countered that view by showing that most people do not get their news from ideologically driven sources, with more traditional neutral wire service and local TV fare outweighing the much chronicled cable news channels, notably Fox News, and politically skewed websites.

Much of the paper delves deeply into their mathematical assumptions and modus operandi, citing the work of many others, and may send the heads of laymen spinning. Just a tiny, fleeting example:


[Mish note: The article text I quoted is not printable. The above image is from the original source document: Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Hopefully I can get a comment from Salil Mehta at Statistical Ideas.]

In our model, Trump gets all the voters that Clinton and Neither lost as a result of fake news

Well, you can also just cut to their chase:

“In summary, our data suggest that social media were not the most important source of election news, and even the most widely circulated fake news stories were seen by only a small fraction of Americans. For fake news to have changed the outcome of the election, a single fake news story would need to have convinced about 0.7 percent of Clinton voters and non-voters who saw it to shift their votes to Trump, a persuasion rate equivalent to seeing 36 television campaign ads.”

Ads More Important Than Fake News

Given the logical conclusion that ads played a more important role than “fake news”, let’s dive into the ad campaigns.

Who Spent More?

Clinton has spent $96.4 million in ads in the general election, compared with $17.3 million for Trump’s campaign, according to a report from NBC News and  Advertising Analytics, a firm that tracks ad spending.

Outside groups supporting Clinton, such as the super PAC Priorities USA Action, have spent nearly $60 million. By contrast, groups backing Trump, like the National Rifle Assn., have doled out a total of $16.3 million.

The above from the LA Times on September 21.

On November 2, Bloomberg noted Candidates Make Last Ditch Ad Spending Push Across 14-State Electoral Map.

Money is flowing fast into television markets in battleground states—and then some—across the country. Clinton has increased her ad spending by 86 percent as compared with the week beginning October 18, to $29.6 million, which is double what Donald Trump spent ($14.9 million).

For the week beginning October 25, the Clinton campaign spent $154,696 per electoral vote in the states where she advertised. Her average weekly expenditure per electoral vote over the 19 prior weeks in the general election campaign was $58,492. Donald Trump’s expenditure per electoral vote for the same week was $91,938, largely unchanged from the prior week, but still a considerable increase as compared with his prior weekly average of $22,753.

Over 19 weeks Hillary averaged $58,492 per electoral vote vs. Trump’s average of $22,753.

For the week of October 25, the Clinton campaign spent $154,696 per electoral vote vs. $91,938 for Trump.

Clinton Outspent Trump everywhere buy Virginia and Colorado.


General Ad Spending

Let’s give credit where credit is due. In recognition of Hillary’s significant achievement, she wins three blue ribbons:

  • For wasting the most campaign dollars in a losing cause.
  • For outspending her opponent by the biggest percentage.
  • For outspending her opponent on a per-vote basis and losing.

Lifetime Achievement Award


It’s not easy losing to the most unpopular candidate in history while outspending him nearly 3-1.

I propose Hillary deserves a lifetime achievement award. Her noteworthy performance may never be broken.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock.