According to a new survey by Pew Research Center, most Americans suspect that made-up news is having an impact. About two-in-three U.S. adults (64%) say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events. This sense is shared widely across incomes, education levels, partisan affiliations and most other demographic characteristics. These results come from a survey of 1,002 U.S. adults conducted from Dec. 1 to 4, 2016.
Nearly one-in-three U.S. adults (32%) say they often see fake political news online, while 39% sometimes see such stories and 26% hardly ever or never do. In a rare instance of demographic differences, whites are more likely than blacks and Hispanics to say they often see fake news, and those with annual incomes of at least $75,000 are more likely than those who make less than $75,000 to say so.
Americans show some discernment between almost completely made up political news stories and those that are partially inaccurate. About half (51%) of U.S. adults say they often see political news online that is at least somewhat inaccurate – a higher proportion than those who say they see news that is almost completely made up.
Frequent spotters of made-up online political news are more likely to believe fake news causes confusion – and are also more confident in their ability to identify it. Roughly eight-in-ten (82%) of those who say they often see fake news online think such completely made-up news causes a great deal of confusion, compared with 56% of those who see fake news less frequently. And 51% of those who often see fake news are very confident in their ability to identify fake news, compared with a third of those who see it less often.
To be sure, there are limits to what this self-reported information can capture, as it cannot determine whether these levels of confidence are truly warranted. There could, for example, be more fake news on the internet that goes unnoticed (despite high confidence in one’s ability to detect it) or some news that is erroneously thought to be made up. Further research could help tease out these different possibilities. What’s clear even now, however, is that Americans perceive fake political news stories to be a consistent threat online – but see themselves as fairly adept at detecting when a story is made-up. Read the rest at PewResearch.