Americans Are More Concerned About Fake News Than Terrorism, According To New Poll

Those who were surveyed blame politicians and activists for made-up news, but they expect journalists to help correct the problem.

President Donald Trump during an Indiana rally.
Michael B. Thomas / Getty Images

Those who were surveyed blame politicians and activists for made-up news, but they expect journalists to help correct the problem.

According to data from a new Pew Research Center poll, which surveyed 6,127 adults earlier this year, Americans rank “made-up news/info” as a larger threat than terrorism. The poll showed that, according to respondents, the issue was more important than racism, violent crime, climate change, illegal immigration, and sexism.

According to Axios, the poll revealed that 68 percent of Americans view fake news and information as having an impact on confidence in the U.S. government. Just over half of the respondents said the problem has an impact on the confidence in each other.

Though the majority of the blame for the made-up news problem is placed on politicians and activists, Americans believe journalists shoulder the responsibility to fix the growing issue. They also believe it will inevitably become worse over the next five years.

Only 10 percent were optimistic that the problem would be reduced by then.

As far as encounters with made-up news, a majority said it happens sometimes or often, which eventually altered the way they choose to receive their news. These changes included switching news sources, changing the way they use the internet for news, and even going as far as fact-checking news articles that they were suspicious of.

The Pew Research Center data indicates that 52 percent of Americans believe they’ve shared made-up news, yet a majority of that group said they didn’t know it was made-up at the time they shared it.

For social media users, half of them said they’ve unfollowed someone because they shared made-up news. An identical number have stopped following a media outlet for fear of the same.

Many respondents claim they’ve avoided conversations with people for fear they would bring up made-up news in the conversation.

A staggering 79 percent of those surveyed think measures should be in place to prevent the spread of fake news. The remainder of respondents disagreed, claiming it falls under protected speech.

Axios reporter Sara Fischer wrote that “‘fake news’ and ‘misinformation’ are abstract terms, which gives people in power — such as President Trump — room to weaponize the term in order to denounce news they don’t like.”

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“This has dramatically exposed more Americans to the debate around the problems it causes for society, and likely impacts their view of it as an important issue,” Fischer wrote.

The study comes on the heels of another accusation from President Donald Trump, During his U.K. state visit, he described CNN as a pusher of fake news. He has repeatedly attacked the network for what he views as unfavorable coverage of him and his administration.

According to CNBC, he suggested American consumers should boycott AT&T in order to force “big changes” at CNN.