About a third of Americans say misleading stories posted on social media are the biggest threat to U.S. elections, and half say President Donald Trump encourages election interference, a new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll released Tuesday says.
Further, most Americans say spotting the difference between fake news and real facts on social media is difficult and has gotten harder since the 2016 election and do not feel safe that technology companies will keep social media sites from being misused to affect the elections this year.
In the survey, conducted from Jan. 7-12 of 1,259 adults, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, and 1,064 registered voters, with a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points:
- 35% said misleading information is the biggest threat to safe, accurate elections, including 39% of independent voters, 31% of Republicans, and 27% Democrats.
- 59% of Americans say it is hard to identify false information on social media. 37% disagreed, saying it is easy to spot.
- 58% of Democrats say spotting fake news has become harder since 2016.
- 55% of Independents say spotting fake news is harder.
- 44% of Republicans find it harder to spot false stories.
In addition, 51% said they think Trump is encouraging election interference:
- 39% said they think Trump is making the nation's systems safer.
- 10% said they are unsure.
- More than 30% said they think a foreign country will tamper with votes to alter 2020 results.
For the most part, the people polled said they think the news media should be responsible for making sure false information isn't released:
- 39% said the news media should vet misleading information.
- 18% said social media companies are responsible.
- 15% say the government's primary job is to reduce misinformation.
- 75% said they have little confidence in Facebook, Google, or YouTube to stop fake news.
- 5% said they feel "very confident" in social media sites concerning false information.
Meanwhile, Republicans were more likely to suspect voter fraud as a threat than Democrats or Independents, and Democrats were more wary of voter suppression.
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