The results of a new poll by the Pew Research Center suggest that Americans are really bad at recognizing the difference between opinion and fact, and that might be why “fake news” is such a problem. But in particular, millennials and other young people may be better at telling the difference between fact and opinion than most Americans, according to data in the Pew report.
The findings of the survey show that only about a quarter of Americans who are 18 or older were able to correctly tell the difference between a fact versus an opinionated statement, Newsweek reported. The poll tested more than 5,000 people, and only 26 percent of respondents were able to correctly identify all 10 of the statements as either fact or opinion. That’s…not great.
Some people were better at telling the difference between fact and opinion than others. Newsweek noted that differentiating between the two is an issue for both Republicans and Democrats and that people in either party were more likely to believe something was accurate and factual if it matched their political ideology.
But when it comes to politics, it actually pays to be aware — the survey found that 36 percent of Americans with higher levels of political awareness (here defined as being knowledgeable about politics and getting political news regularly) correctly identified all of the factual news statements provided.
And take a look at Appendix B in the report. Respondents aged 18 to 49 were better at classifying statements than people who were 50 and older, Pew reported. If you break the numbers down further, it seems that millennials and older members of Gen Z were the best at correctly classifying factual information and opinion statements. This just in — millennials are killing the fake news industry.
When it comes to facts, 34 percent of the 18-29 demographic correctly identified all five of the statements. That number decreases slightly to 30 percent in the 30-49 demographic, which also includes some of Gen X.
And as far as identifying opinion statements, almost half of the 18-29-year-old respondents recognized all five of them, at 46 percent. The 30-49 set was only slightly worse at identifying the statements as opinion, at 42 percent.
Pew also reported that people who are “very digitally savvy and those who place high levels of trust in the news media” were better at accurately picking out news-related statements as being either factual or a matter of opinion. It’s safe to say that millennials and their younger cohorts, who have grown up around computers, are fairly digitally savvy.
It appears that those who have grown up with social media algorithms have become more attuned to the intricacies of political echo chambers.
The report noted that the United States “is not completely detached from what is factual and what is not,” but that’s not exactly a rousing endorsement of our news parsing abilities. As digital media continues to expand, everyone needs to be better at recognizing and analyzing news, not just millennials and other young Americans, or we’re gonna be in for a world of “fake news” with no end in sight.