Pew: Americans Say Fake News Is Bigger Problem than ‘Climate Change’

A man holds up a 'Fake News' placard as members of the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA) and supporters protest outside the British consulate in support of jailed British right-wing activist and former leader to the English Defence League (EDL) Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, in Melbourne on June 9, …
WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

Americans who say fake news is a “very big problem” outnumber those who say the same about “climate change,” according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

“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 survey revealed, with a full fifty percent of the population describing it as a very big problem as opposed to 46 percent who say the same of climate change.

U.S. adults believe that the majority of the content of made-up news and information falls into two major categories: politics/elections (73 percent) and entertainment/celebrities (61 percent), Pew revealed.

A bulk of Americans sense an ideological motivation behind the creation of fake news, with 86 percent of the population saying that “the desire to push an agenda or viewpoint” is a key reason why news is manipulated.

As with many issues, when it comes to fake news there are sharp divisions along partisan lines, Pew found. “In general, Republicans, the highly politically aware and older Americans express higher levels of concern about the impact of made-up news than their counterparts,” the report stated.

In fact, among Republicans and those who lean Republican, 62 percent believe that fake news is a “very big problem” as opposed to just 40 percent of Democrats or those who lean Democrat who say this.

Republicans are also more likely to say that mainstream news coverage favors one side and to distrust in information from news organizations. And while the majority of both parties blame politicians in the first place for the creation of made-up news, Republicans are “far more likely” than Democrats to blame journalists for the creation of made-up news, Pew found.

As an example of this, nearly half of Republicans (49 percent) say they “regularly see made-up news and information,” whereas among Democrats the portion falls to less than a third (30 percent).

Republicans are almost twice as likely to attribute fake news to activists, with nearly three-quarters of Republicans (73 percent) saying activist groups produce a lot of made-up news and information and only 38 percent of Democrats saying the same.

A still greater divide exists between the two groups on the matter of journalists inserting their own opinions into news reporting, with three times as many Republicans (60 percent) as Democrats (20 percent) saying this is a “very big problem.”

Climate change is not the only problem outranked by made-up information, Pew revealed.

As a whole, Americans believe that fake news is also a bigger problem for the country than racism, illegal immigration, terrorism, and sexism.

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