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A survey by Barna research group found the top reason given by Americans for the fake news phenomenon is "reader error," more so than made-up stories or factual mistakes in reporting.

https://www.businessinsider.com/fake-news-literacy-americans-2017-5

Questions:

I don't understand the construction of this sentence."So" is a pro-form. What does it refer to? Is it "reader error"? But usually "so" refers to a thing, not a noun.

Is "more... than..." in the same use as:

He is more old than middle aged.

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  • Quick net search found this. grammarist.com/usage/moreso
    – BillOnne
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 15:27
  • more so than is the same as more than. It's idiomatic and somewhat informal.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 15:58

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You're right "so" is a proform. In this case, it's an adverbial recalling the adjective "top", which roughly acts as a superlative for "common". So the meaning is:

... the top reason given by Americans for the fake news phenomenon is "reader error," which is more common than made-up stories or factual mistakes in reporting.

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