A large majority of Americans don’t trust the news they see on social media compared to legacy news sources like newspapers and TV, according to a new survey of 1,007 U.S. adults conducted by Ipsos on behalf of BuzzFeed. But even a small number of people convinced of falsehoods can wreak considerable havoc.
Overall, Ipsos found that just 15% of Americans believe the news they get on social media generally, including 18% for Facebook and YouTube, and 15% for Twitter. That compares to 59% who said they trust TV news, 58% for print newspapers, 54% for newspaper Web sites, and 50% for both news radio and cable news.
The survey found that people who actually get news from a specific source are also more likely to believe it. Thus, among people who read print newspapers 74% consider them trustworthy, while 69% who visit newspaper Web sites consider them trustworthy. For news radio the proportion is 68%, broadcast TV 66%, and cable news 65%.
For social media generally, 25% of people who get news from social sites consider it trustworthy – but there are some major disparities when it comes to specific sites. Thus 27% of people who get news from Facebook consider it trustworthy, but the proportion soars to 49% for Twitter and 53% for YouTube.
One obvious rebuttal to these findings is that even one misinformed person bringing a gun into a pizzeria in search of a fictional child sex slave ring is one too many. Taking a broader view, nowadays even a relatively small proportion of misinformed people in a few states can decide an election.
On the other hand, a “relatively small proportion” still means several million voters. And if millions of people are credulous enough to believe everything they read online, then America has a much bigger problem to deal with than just fake news – namely the entrenched stupidity, verging on willful ignorance, of a not insignificant portion of the electorate. If a nation can’t provide even minimal education to its public, sufficient to impart simple critical thinking skills to voters, does it really deserve good government?Oh well; we had a good run.