Jun 5, 2019

Poll: Americans view fake news as a bigger problem than terrorism

Photo: stevanovicigor / iStock / Getty Images

Americans view made-up news and information as a bigger problem than other critical issues, including terrorism, immigration, climate change and racism, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

Why it matters: The survey finds that Americans feel more worried today about fake news because it's undermining their trust in key institutions, like government and the media.

The only issues that rank higher than made-up news and information as "very big problems in the country today" are drug addiction, the affordability of health care, the U.S. political system, and the income gap.

By the numbers: An overwhelming majority of Americans (68%) believe made-up news and information has a big impact on their trust in government, according to the survey.

  • More than half (54%) of Americans say it impacts their confidence in other Americans.
  • More than half (51%) say it impacts the ability of political leaders to get work done.

Between the lines: While most Americans blame political leaders and activist groups for creating misinformation over journalists, most say "the news media" is the most responsible for fixing the problem.

  • Republicans blame journalists more for the issue than Democrats, according to the survey.

The big picture: Misinformation has always existed in various forms, but the internet era has made the problem harder to stop in real-time.

  • According to the poll, more than half of Americans sometimes come across fake news online, and many report changing their internet habits to lessen their overall intake of fake news as a result.

Our thought bubble: "Fake news" and "misinformation" are abstract terms, which gives people in power — such as President Trump — room to weaponize the term in order to denounce news they don't like. This has dramatically exposed more Americans to the debate around the problems it causes for society, and likely impacts their view of it as an important issue.

What's next: Don't count on the public to be optimistic about the issue ahead of 2020. A majority of those surveyed said they think the problem will get worse over time.

Go deeper

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 1,131,713 — Total deaths: 59,884 — Total recoveries: 233,591Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 278,458 — Total deaths: 7,159 — Total recoveries: 9,897Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primaries by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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