On June 5, the Pew Research Center released results of a poll regarding the issue of fake news — where it originates, whether it’s a pervasive problem and who should fix it. The poll found that many Americans believe the spread of made-up news is causing significant harm to the country. The center conducted the poll between Feb. 19 and March 4 of this year.
The issue of fake news ranked below drug addiction, the affordability of health care, the U.S. political system and the income gap in terms of priorities, but it ranked above violent crime, climate change, racism, illegal immigration, terrorism and sexism.
According to the results of the poll, 68 percent of American adults say fake news impacts confidence in government and just over half — 54% — said it has an impact on our confidence in each other.
But most of the blame doesn’t fall on journalists. In fact, U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of fake news. Nearly 60 percent of those polled blame politicians and 53 percent blame activist groups, while only 36 percent blame journalists — roughly the same percentage that blame foreign actors. The public, too, gets 26 percent of the blame. Though responses regarding where blame falls varies on partisan lines, age and political awareness.
Journalists, 53% of respondents said, have the most responsibility to reduce the amount of made-up news and information.
What an opportunity. The more journalists can separate fact from fiction for readers, listeners and viewers, the more the industry can aid in helping citizens become more engaged. The fact that journalists are largely tasked with fixing the issue reassures that journalists — good journalists — have largely retained the trust of the public.