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U.S. adults believe 40 percent of the news is false

Americans are even more likely to believe news found on social media is made up or inaccurate

Photo (c) seb_ra - Getty Images
A new survey conducted by the Gallup and Knight Foundations finds that Americans believe that 39 percent of the news they see on television, read in newspapers, or hear on the radio is misinformation.

When taking in news through social media, U.S. adults estimate that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of what they read is either made up or unable to be verified as accurate.

The survey of 1,440 randomly recruited Americans found that some demographics were more likely than others to believe that the news they consume is “fake.”

Demographic differences

Republicans were found to be more likely than Democrats to perceive news from legacy media outlets as misinformation.

Half (51 percent) of Republicans and 54 percent of self-described conservatives were likely to perceive misinformation when it comes to legacy media, compared with just 23 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of liberals.

People with a high school education or less believed that roughly 40 percent of traditional media stories are intentionally wrong on some level.

“The extent to which Americans perceive misinformation in the news environment and their belief in the effectiveness of methods to counteract it are influenced to a large degree by their political leanings and their opinions of the news media more broadly,” the Knight Foundation said in a summary of the findings.

Combating misinformation

Seventy percent or more of respondents said that methods to counteract the spread of misinformation, including giving greater prominence to stories from reputable news sources, could be at least “somewhat effective.”

“These results underscore how a lack of trust in the news media intertwines with perceptions of misinformation,” the Knight Foundation said.

“Although Americans continue to see the media as playing a critical role in informing citizens in our democracy, the ability of the institution to effectively fulfill that responsibility is hampered when citizens are not confident that the information they receive is accurate.”

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it would be taking steps toward combating the spread of inaccurate news on its site by shrinking the visual prominence of news stories found to be inaccurate by Facebook’s third-party fact checkers.

Twitter said earlier this year that it would notify nearly 678,000 users that may have inadvertently interacted with accounts believed to have been linked to a Russian propaganda service called the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

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