CRF Blog

Many Americans Say Made-Up News Is a Critical Problem That Needs To Be Fixed

by Bill Hayes

In a new study, the Pew Research Center reports that Many Americans Say Made-Up News Is a Critical Problem That Needs To Be Fixed.

Many Americans say the creation and spread of made-up news and information is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 6,127 U.S. adults conducted between Feb. 19 and March 4, 2019, on the Center’s American Trends Panel.

Indeed, more Americans view made-up news as a very big problem for the country than identify terrorism, illegal immigration, racism and sexism that way. Additionally, nearly seven-in-ten U.S. adults (68%) say made-up news and information greatly impacts Americans’ confidence in government institutions, and roughly half (54%) say it is having a major impact on our confidence in each other.

U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news intended to mislead the public. But they believe it is primarily the responsibility of journalists to fix the problem. And they think the issue will get worse in the foreseeable future.

The vast majority of Americans say they sometimes or often encounter made-up news. In response, many have altered their news consumption habits, including by fact-checking the news they get and changing the sources they turn to for news.

In addition, about eight-in-ten U.S. adults (79%) believe steps should be taken to restrict made-up news, as opposed to 20% who see it as protected communication.

Similar to Americans’ news attitudes generally, stark partisan differences exist when it comes to made-up news and information, particularly in the area of assessing blame. Differences also emerge based on political awareness and age. In general, Republicans, the highly politically aware and older Americans express higher levels of concern about the impact of made-up news than their counterparts.

These concerns about made-up news are mingled with pessimism about the future of the issue. Most of those surveyed (56%) think the problem will get worse over the next five years. Only one-in-ten believe progress will be made in reducing it. [more]