Social media may not be best source of news, poll shows

Members of the Singapore Polytechnic team involved in the survey include (from left) Nur Khairiyah, Tracey Ang, Muhammad Farhan, Melissa Anne Lim and Sammi Poo.
Members of the Singapore Polytechnic team involved in the survey include (from left) Nur Khairiyah, Tracey Ang, Muhammad Farhan, Melissa Anne Lim and Sammi Poo.PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC

Survey shows youth who get news from such platforms less informed about current affairs

Youth in Singapore who get the news from social media platforms are less informed about current affairs, a recent survey by Singapore Polytechnic students has shown.

The survey in June last year of 802 young people aged between 15 and 35 showed that those who preferred social media as their choice of Internet platform for news achieved an average score of 47.6 per cent in a current affairs quiz.

Those who preferred news apps scored an average of 54.2 per cent - the highest among all Internet platforms - while those who preferred news websites scored 52.2 per cent.

The types of social media platforms that respondents preferred were not specified in the survey.

The survey was done by a team of five Year 2 media and communications students as an assignment.

They presented their findings at the Mass Media Research Press Conference at Singapore Polytechnic yesterday.

Team member Tracey Ang, 19, said of the findings: "At school, we are taught to cross-refer to different sources to check the reliability of a piece of news. If someone posts a screenshot of a news article on social media, I'd go online to search for different articles for cross-reference, so as to see if the information in the article is true, instead of believing it straightaway."

The 18 multiple-choice questions in the quiz tested respondents on their recognition of prominent international and local figures - such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - as well as their awareness of international and local policy changes - such as the increase in the goods and services tax in Budget 2018.

Respondents who preferred the Internet as their main source of news scored the highest in the quiz on average with 52.1 per cent.

Those who preferred physical newspapers scored 47 per cent while those who tuned in to the radio scored 43.3 per cent, and television 37.3 per cent.

Another team member, Mr Muhammad Farhan, 19, said: "When I was growing up, my parents placed much emphasis on reading newspapers, and discouraged us from using the Internet to keep ourselves informed because of the possibility of fake news.

"But our survey showed that those who used the Internet scored higher than those using traditional platforms.

"So I think the problem doesn't lie with using the Internet as a news source, but the issue of fake news lies in how we choose our sources of news on the Internet, and whether we fact-check our sources," he added.

Mr Farhan also commented on the finding that the respondents generally believed they were better informed than they actually were.

The survey showed that 74 per cent believed they were well informed but the average current affairs quiz score was 50.9 per cent.

Mr Farhan said: "We're afraid that this perception people have that they are well informed of current affairs will deter them from seeing the need to diversify their sources or actively consume news.

"We hope that this will serve as a wake-up call."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2019, with the headline 'Social media may not be best source of news, poll shows'. Print Edition | Subscribe