Thursday, June 06, 2019

Poll: Fake news has become a big problem, mainly due to activists and politicians, but it's up to journalists to fix it

Pew Research Center graphic; for a larger version, click on it.
"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." So reports the Pew Research Center, on its latest survey of 6,127 adults. Half of them said fake news is a "very big problem in the country today," more than violent crime, climate change, racism, illegal immigration, terrorism or sexism.

Respondents blame politicians and activists for fake news far more than journalists, but more than half believe journalists are mostly responsible for fixing the problem, and 64 percent believe the political divide is a significant barrier to fixing it. Older and more conservative voters are more likely to be concerned about the impact of fake news and more likely to blame journalists, Pew reports.

"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," Pew reports. "In addition, about eight in 10 U.S. adults (79%) believe steps should be taken to restrict made-up news, as opposed to 20% who see it as protected communication."

President Trump, who popularized use of the phrase "fake news" to describe journalism he doesn't like, has taken credit for "exposing" it, but the effort to cast doubt on mainstream news media "began decades ago, in the Nixon era, and assumed its modern, professional incarnation with the 1996 launch of Fox News — the leading purveyor of false and misleading statements about the performance of the media," writes media columnist Erik Wemple of The Washington Post. "It’s a good bet that the 38-point gap surfaced by the latest Pew study would have been wider if the survey had been conducted a month or so after its Feb. 19-March 4 span. That way, it would have reflected public opinion in light of Attorney General William P. Barr’s March 24 letter abridging the Mueller report, which noted that the investigation did not establish a conspiracy with Russia. In response to that selectively articulated document, commentators blasted the media for a “catastrophic” failure, a “lie, a fabrication, a complete and utter hoax” and the like."

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