Social media news users in US more likely to believe false stories: Poll

WASHINGTON • Americans who rely on social media as their main source of news are more likely to believe false or unproven stories about important topics such as politics and Covid-19, a survey showed on Monday.

The Pew Research Centre report found that people who used social media platforms for news were less informed about major topics on public affairs and more susceptible to believing rumours and hoaxes.

The report comes as social media platforms are becoming a growing source of news amid struggles by traditional media in the digital age.

It found that some 18 per cent of respondents in the survey received most of their political and election news via social media.

These people were less likely to correctly answer fact-based questions about politics and current events than those relying on print, broadcast or news apps.

However, social media news consumers were more aware of specific false or unproven stories about the coronavirus and said they had seen more misinformation about the pandemic, such as claims that vitamin C could prevent infection, the survey found.

On political news, social media users were less informed about facts such as the function of the state-by-state Electoral College votes, which ultimately decide who wins the US presidency, or the unemployment rate.

That comes from a series of interviews with some 9,000 adults in the United States from November 2019 to December last year.

A majority of those surveyed said they distrusted social media, with Facebook the least trusted among the platforms.

Among those using traditional media, the researchers also found that roughly a quarter of Americans on the political left and right consistently turned to "partisan" news sites, reinforcing their views.

Pew found that roughly three in 10 Republicans relied on former president Donald Trump as a major source of news about the election and the coronavirus.

These Republicans were more likely to think the Covid-19 pandemic had been overblown, and were more likely to see voter fraud as a significant threat to election integrity.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2021, with the headline 'Social media news users in US more likely to believe false stories: Poll'. Subscribe