The topic of “fake news” is all over the real news lately, given the profound role news hoaxes appear to have played in the election. If you can believe the Washington Post (you can), even the candidates often had trouble discerning real news from faux news. Some people are hoping Facebook will step up to solve the problem. Others believe it shouldn’t be Facebook’s job to police the news.
But is this fake news thing even a big deal? Do people really care? Well, it turns out, they do. At least most people do.
We surveyed over 2,000 US adults today and saw the following results:
In all, 73% of Americans are at least “a little” concerned about fake news, with the majority – 52% – stating that the issue concerns them “a lot.” 19% of respondents say that the issue doesn’t concern them – suggesting that everyone should be informed enough to tell real news from fake.
Like anything, we need to peel the onion back a bit further. I assumed that political affiliation would have some influence on these numbers. It sort of did, but not much. Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to be concerned, in general, but only slightly more likely to be concerned “a lot.” Independents were the largest group to say they were NOT concerned.
Women were more likely than men to be concerned about fake news, particularly those who are concerned “a lot.” Parents, Hispanics, and urban dwellers were less likely to be concerned.
One of the clearer distinctions we found was among age cohorts. Simply put, the younger you are, the less you seem to be concerned about fake news. Millennials and GenXers were fairly consistent on the question. Concern jumped significantly among Baby Boomers, with 57% saying the issue concerns them ‘a lot.’ Only 15% said the issue doesn’t concern them.
I’m not sure if this age difference is a function of Baby Boomers caring more about the integrity of professional journalism (they do) or because they may not be as fluent in the pitfalls of the modern Internet as younger generations. It’s probably a combination of both.
No matter what, it’s clear this is an issue that a lot of people care about. Don’t expect it to go away.