MANHATTAN (CN) – Fake news outstripped racism, climate change and immigration for most Americans polled about problems confronting the country, a Pew survey unveiled Wednesday shows.
Though in agreement that fake news is detrimental to democracy, survey respondents were divided along party lines as to who is responsible for fixing the problem.
More than 6,000 Americans participated in the poll conducted between Feb. 19 and March 4, which says that 7 in 10 U.S. adults blamed made-up news and information for hurting Americans’ confidence in government institutions. More than half (54%) also reported a major impact on our confidence in each other.
According to the 72-page study, U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than they blame journalists for the creation of fake news intended to mislead the public.
While just a third of Americans (36%) blamed journalists for the existence of made-up news and information, more than half of respondents (53%) said the news media bear the most responsibility to reduce the problem. Other choices for clean-up duty included the public (20%), the government (12%) and tech companies (9%).
Although the study never explicitly mentions President Trump or his oft-invoked “fake news” outcry, its findings show a 20-point gap along party lines where the majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (62%) say made-up news is a very big problem in the country today, compared with fewer than half of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (40%).
Republicans also reported greater exposure to made-up news up news and information. About half of Republicans (49%) say they come across it often, compared to just less than a third of Democrats (30%).
And while members of both parties say the news media bear the primary responsibility for fixing the situation, that feeling is considerably more pervasive among Republicans (69%) than Democrats (42%).
Republicans also place more blame on activist groups, with about three-quarters (73%) saying these groups create a lot of fake news, close to twice the rate reported by Democrats (38%).
The study found that on both sides of the political aisle, more than half of both Republicans and Democrats blamed political leaders and their staff for made-up news.
The study found that 57% of Republicans say made-up news has a big impact on political leaders’ ability to do their jobs, as compared to 47% of Democrats.
Looking ahead, the study found that 56% of those surveyed believe that the problem of made-up news will get worse over the next five years, while 32% think it will stay the same. Only 1 in 10 are optimistic that the situation will get better.
The same day that the Pew study’s findings were made public, President Trump offered an unsubstantiated statistic on the issue, tweeting Wednesday morning: “If the totally Corrupt Media was less corrupt, I would be up by 15 points in the polls based on our tremendous success with the economy, maybe Best Ever! If the Corrupt Media was actually fair, I would be up by 25 points. Nevertheless, despite the Fake News, we’re doing great!”
According the Pew study, the issues picked more often than fake news as problems in America news were drug addiction, health care, the U.S. political system and wealth inequality. Drug addiction ranked as the top issue, with 70% of participants calling it a major problem in the country today.