Many Americans Wary of Digital Information

(CN) — The growing significance of online media platforms has led many Americans to re-evaluate their sources for information and how much they choose to consume, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

The typology survey, which classifies respondents based on general type, shows that Americans have a variety of distinct approaches for obtaining new information. Such strategies reflect the participants’ trust in scientific organizations, news media outlets and other institutions.

Pew identified five broad groups that reflect a person’s trust in information sources and desire to learn, particularly with regard to improving digital skills.

The groups range from those who are “eager and willing” to learn, to people who are “wary” of new information. Other groups include people who are “confident” in their sources of information, people who are “cautious and curious,” and those who are “doubtful” of the trustworthiness and accuracy of new information.

The survey found 22 percent of respondents eager and willing to seek new information, while 24 percent were wary of doing so. The confident group represents 16 percent of the participants, while the cautious and curious (13 percent) and the doubtful (24 percent) account for the rest of the respondents.

“The typology suggests that engagement with information is not a one-size-fits-all proposition,” said Lee Rainie, Pew’s director of internet and technology research. “Some seek out information and new ways to consume them, while others are either too busy or too distrustful of sources to engage more fully with information or improve digital skills.

“Either way, it is clear that Americans consume information in ways that are as complex as they are varied.”

Overall, 36 percent of respondents — the eager and willing and the confident groups — showed a fairly strong interest in learning and at least generally trust information sources. On the other hand, 49 percent were doubtful and wary: relatively disengaged and unenthusiastic about discovering new information and gaining digital skills.

Pew found that minorities represent the majority of eager and willing respondents: 31 percent of the group is Hispanic, 21 percent are black and 38 percent are white.

The findings suggest that sources of information might need to use different methods to reach the different groups.

The digital divide and limited information literacy also represent significant challenges for respondents who are less likely to seek help to find trustworthy sources of news and information.

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