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The enduring allure of conspiracies
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Oct. 8, 2020, 12:57 p.m.
LINK: knightfoundation.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   October 8, 2020

With just 26 days to go before the United States presidential election — in the middle of a major racial justice movement during a pandemic — U.S. adults are worried that misinformation will influence the results.

In its latest survey in the Trust, Media and Democracy series, Gallup and the Knight Foundation asked 1,269 U.S. adults about misinformation and its effects between September 11 and September 24, before the first presidential debate and President Donald Trump’s hospitalization following his positive coronavirus diagnosis. The participants were members of Gallup’s probability-based national panel.

“Four in five Americans are concerned — either very (48%) or somewhat (33%) — that misinformation on social media will sway the outcome of the 2020 presidential election,” according to the findings. “The level of concern expressed by partisan groups differs considerably, with 62% of Democrats very concerned about misinformation and its effect on the election, compared with 36% of Republicans and 40% of independents. However, majorities of Republicans and independents are at least somewhat concerned.”

Most Americans believe Trump (58%) and social media (36%) spread “a great deal” of misinformation, while 11% said Trump spreads “a fair amount” and 36% said social media does. Of the 13 potential sources of misinformation, former vice president and Democratic candidate Joe Biden ranks 8th, with 30% of people thinking he spreads “a great deal” of misinformation. He supposedly spreads less misinformation than cable TV news (38%) and national network news on TV (37%), but more than major newspapers (29%).

Rankings of Trump and Biden as misinformation spreaders varies by party, as Democrats see Trump (98%) and congressional Republicans (93%) responsible for a fair amount of misinformation. Republicans (85%) said the same thing about Biden and congressional Democrats (94%). Independents said Trump (74%) and congressional Republicans (77%) are more responsible for misinformation than Biden (58%) and congressional Democrats (70%), but that all four are spread a great deal or at least a fair amount. Just 3% believe it’s okay to spread misinformation if it means that it’ll help a candidate get elected, while 97% disagree.

It’s worth noting that another study by the Pew Research Center published this week found that nearly 40% of Americans are finding it harder to determine the facts about the pandemic as of early September.

Check out the findings here.

Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash.

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