Disinformation Campaign About Voter Fraud Gains Some Traction In Mountain West

Nov 6, 2020
Originally published on November 6, 2020 5:09 pm

While President Donald Trump's accusations of widespread voter fraud are based on no evidence, they are gaining some traction in the region. 

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., is asking his supporters via text to help fund the president's legal fight, saying, "Dems are stealing the election." 

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has taken a leave of absence to assist the Trump campaign fight legal battles in multiple states. 

However, many other top elected Republicans in the Beehive State have distanced themselves from Trump's baseless claims of untold "illegal votes."

"The President is within his rights to request recounts, to call for investigation of alleged voting irregularities where evidence exists, and to exhaust legal remedies – doing these things is consistent with our election process," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, wrote on Facebook and Twitter Friday morning. "He is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen – doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions."

The president's accusations have split both the Republican Party and the nation's most watched television network, Fox News. The channel's news department has downplayed Trump's argument about voter fraud while popular pundits are trying to give it credibility. 

Nearly half of the nation believes Fox News is a trusted source of political and election-related news, according to a Pew Research Center report from earlier this year. 

Over the past year, the network's pundits have lended credence to disinformation campaigns about COVID-19, antifa and deep state conspiracy theories provided by Trump. 

These disinformation campaigns gain traction with many of the president's supporters, in part because of confirmation bias.

"I think this is tapping into the human mindset where we tend to confirm what we want to believe," Gi Yun, a media professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said. "We want to believe only when we see something that is coherent with our existing beliefs. We discard information that is not consistent with the existing beliefs."

Twitter has recently placed warnings on Trump's tweets touting the voter fraud conspiracy. Facebook shut down a "Stop The Steal" group that had gained 320,000 members. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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