82 Percent of Americans Register Concern About the Impact of Fake News
The results of a new national poll by global communications agency Weber Shandwick, public affairs specialty firm Powell Tate and KRC Research finds that the proliferation of fake news is weighing heavily on the minds of Americans. According to A Real Plague: Fake News, more than eight in 10 Americans (82 percent) are concerned about the impact fake news might have on the credibility of the news and information they receive from the media. This high level of concern is common to both political parties, both genders and increases with age.
Three-quarters of Americans (75 percent) acknowledge that it is difficult to determine what news is accurate and what is not, and seven in 10 (70 percent) believe that they have read a fake news story. Perhaps most troubling, however, is the finding that a large 71 percent of respondents think that fake news is contributing to incivility in society. Americans possibly believe that fake news stirs up emotions such as anger, confusion, anxiety and disengagement, all leading to greater incivility and polarization. With 69 percent of Americans believing that our country has a major civility problem, the spread of fake news has alarming consequences. More than half of Americans (58 percent) believe the level of civility in our nation could be improved if social media sites and search engines curbed fake news.
“People depend upon the truth to understand the world around them. Our research reveals that Americans are experiencing considerable doubt and confusion over what they are being told, what they are hearing and what they are reading,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist of Weber Shandwick. “The marketing and communications industry has an important role in facilitating solutions that advance trustworthy news and information to all Americans and Weber Shandwick is determined to do what we can to help in the fight against false news.”
Americans blame a combination of sources for the distribution of fake news. When asked to write in who or what they think is primary responsible for the distribution of fake news, Americans most frequently named the media, social media, attention seekers and political entities such as parties and politicians. Democrats and Republicans had similar top sources of blame, though Republicans were twice as likely to name the media. Few Americans see themselves as responsible for the spread of fake news – only nine percent say they have ever shared a fake news story online.
Weber Shandwick helps organizations build and protect their reputations based on trust and integrity, navigating this new world in which fake news proliferates. The firm is also committed to using its convening power to bring industry stakeholders across media and marketing together to begin to discuss ways to combat fake news.
The full report on A Real Plague: Fake News can be found here.
About the Research
A Real Plague: Fake News is a supplementary report to Civility in America: A Nationwide Survey conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research. This seventh wave of Civility in America was fielded online from December 9 to 16, 2016, among a sample of 1,126 U.S. adults 18 years and older, drawn from a national consumer panel. The survey included this definition of fake news, presented after asking about awareness of fake news: “Fake news is news that is intentionally written to provide false information to the reader. It is typically distributed online.”
About Weber Shandwick
Weber Shandwick is a leading global communications and engagement firm in 79 cities across 34 countries, with a network extending to 127 cities in 81 countries. The firm’s diverse team of strategists, analysts, producers, designers, developers and campaign activators has won the most prestigious awards in the world for innovative, creative approaches and impactful work. Weber Shandwick was the only public relations agency included on the Ad Age Agency A-list in 2014 and 2015 and the only PR firm designated an A-List Agency Standout in 2017. Weber Shandwick was honored as PRWeek’s Global Agency of the Year in 2015 and 2016, The Holmes Report’s Global Agency of the Year in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 and The Holmes Report’s Global Digital Agency of the Year in 2016. The firm deploys deep expertise across sectors and specialty areas, including consumer marketing, corporate reputation, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate social responsibility, financial communications and crisis management, using proprietary social, digital and analytics methodologies. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit https://www.webershandwick.com.