President Trump has a problem with “fake news,” a handy term he coined to cover misleading or manipulative media reports and news stories that have been profoundly biased against him and his administration.
Americans also have a problem with this phenomenon, according to a major Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.
“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,” the pollster said.
“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,” the researchers said.
First Amendment issues don’t seem to enter in on the thinking here. The poll found that eight-out-of-10 respondents say steps should be taken to restrict fake news, while only 20% felt that it should be protected communication.
Another 54% believe that fake news erodes Americans “confidence in each other” while 51% say it impedes political leaders’ ability to get work done.
Yet politicians catch the blame for this destructive phenomenon. Six-out-of-10 also fault the political community for the trend, while 53% point the finger at activist groups. Just 36% cite journalists themselves while 35% felt that “foreign actors” were to blame.
“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 pollster said.
Made-up-news is an ever-present phenomenon, though. The poll found that 89% of the public now encounter it, either often or sometimes, prompting eight-out-of-10 to check the facts in the news stories themselves.
The fake news factor also causes some collateral damage as well.
“Roughly six-in-ten (63%) have stopped getting news from a particular outlet, about half (52%) have changed the way they use social media and roughly four-in-ten (43%) have lessened their overall news intake,” the poll found.
The American Trends Panel survey of 6,127 U.S. adults was conducted Feb. 19 and March 4, and released Wednesday.