Fake news hurts trust in media but papers, TV fare better – poll

October 31, 2017 - 9:52 AM
People watch news about the South China Sea on a outdoor TV display at a shopping mall in Beijing. (Reuters)

LONDON — Controversies over fake news have damaged trust in media in the United States and elsewhere, but the impact is far worse for social media and online-only outlets than it is for traditional print and TV outlets, a survey has found.

The research and data company Kantar, in a survey of 8,000 people in the United States, Brazil, Britain and France, found that newspapers, magazines and TV news outlets had retained a greater measure of public trust than digital specialists had.

In the United States, mainstream media have reported on the online spread of fabricated stories aimed at helping Donald Trump win the presidency last year. Meanwhile, Trump has accused the mainstream media itself of producing fake news.

Overall, 58 percent of those surveyed said that as a result of becoming aware of fake news they had less trust in social media news stories about politics or elections. For mainstream media, the figure was 24 percent.

“The efforts to brand ‘mainstream news media’ as ‘fake news’ have largely failed,” Kantar said.

The survey drew a link between depth of coverage and trust levels. The findings showed that a much higher proportion of people rated magazines, TV news channels, radio and newspapers highly for in-depth commentary and analysis, than did so for social media news.

“News audiences are far from dumbing down. They demand serious content and the provision of this type of content will help deepen the nature of consumer relationships with news organizations offline and online,” the survey said.

Kantar said its analysis showed usage of the expression “fake news” had surged in mainstream news around the time of the U.S. presidential election in November 2016, and had peaked on Trump’s first day in office in January this year.

However, there was a lack of consensus and clarity on the definition and origin of fake news.

Asked what that expression meant, 58 percent of respondents said it referred to stories deliberately fabricated by a mainstream news organization. Forty-two percent said it described stories put out by someone pretending to be a news organization.

Of the four countries surveyed, Brazil had the highest proportion of people who believed fake news had influenced the outcome of elections in their country, at 69 percent. In the United States, the figure was 47 percent.

“The term ‘fake news’ has been used by the U.S. president so frequently that it comes as no surprise that U.S. audiences are more aware of its impact,” the survey said.

“In Brazil, however, although a national election has not been held since 2014, a series of corruption scandals have likely raised news audience sensitivity to political news.”