Most Americans are worried about fake news. But wealthier ones are especially worried.
False and hyperpartisan content came into focus after Donald Trump won the US presidency. In mid-November, BuzzFeed published a report proving that bogus stories outperformed traditional reporting on Facebook in the months leading up to the vote. Then, earlier this month, Pew Research Center asked people whether they believed “completely made up news” had created confusion on “the basic facts of current events.”
A resounding 88% of US adults told Pew that yes, fake news had caused either “some” or “a great deal” of confusion. Twenty-three percent admitted to having shared false stories, and 16% said they only found out later that the content they shared was a hoax.
Within Pew’s sample, higher earners were more likely to be intensely concerned about the influence of fake news. Seventy-three percent of Americans with wages above $75,000 a year said bogus content had created “a great deal” of confusion, compared to 65% of people making $30,000 to $74,999, and 58% of those earning less than $30,000.
Pew looked at different demographics including gender, age, education, and race. Still, the largest spread among people saying fake news creates “a great deal” of confusion was by income group. Even people of different political affiliations were slightly better aligned: 57% of Republicans said fake news had caused “a great deal” of confusion compared to 64% of Democrats and 69% of Independents.
On Dec. 15, after several weeks of scrutiny over its role in propagating misinformation, Facebook laid out steps it is taking to eliminate the “worst of the worst” fake news from its platform. Facebook’s plan includes making it easier for users to report content that they believe is untrue or misleading. The company is also partnering with third-party fact-checkers to assess the validity of stories. It remains to be seen whether those measures will be enough to break through the opinion echo chambers that Facebook and other social media platforms have helped to create.