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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 12, 2021

Legislator Adoption of the Fake News Label: Ideological Differences in Republican Representative Use on Twitter

Mike Cowburn and Michael T. Oswald
From the journal The Forum


We examine the extent to which Republican members of the House of Representatives have attempted to delegitimize established media by adopting the fake news label on Twitter since Donald Trump’s election. We find that a significant minority of Republican representatives used the fake news label on Twitter. Ideology, measured through roll-call voting behavior (DW-NOMINATE), was the strongest indicator of likely adoption, with conservative representatives using the label at significantly higher rates than comparative moderates. Quantity of tweets sent was a further significant predictor of use, with active Twitter users more disposed to use the label on the platform. District partisanship (PVI) provided no explanatory value beyond ideology, suggesting limited ‘tactical’ use of the label for electoral gain. We discuss potential reasons for these findings and consider consequences for various actors, including Trump. We respond to a call in the literature for more empirical data concerning the use of the fake news label by actors other than President Trump by assessing the extent to which House Republicans have adopted this behavior.

Corresponding author: Mike Cowburn, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany, E-mail:

Appendix Goodness of fit for logistic regression model

Logistic model for YesDummy

— True —

  1. Classified + if predicted Pr(D) ≥ 0.5.

    True D defined as YesDummy ! = 0.

Positive predictive valuePr(D|+)69.70%
Negative predictive valuePr(∼D|−)81.20%
False + rate for true ™DPr(+|∼D)5.00%
False − rate for true DPr(−|D)65.67%
False + rate for classified +Pr(∼D|+)30.30%
False − rate for classified −Pr(D|−)18.800%
Correctly classified79.78%
Logistic model for YesDummy, goodness-of-fit test
Number of observations =267
Number of covariate patterns =267
Pearson chi2 (259) =286.91
Prob > chi2 =0.1124


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Published Online: 2021-02-12

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