Adults in the U.S. Don’t Trust the News They Get via Social Media, But They Keep Coming Back

A new survey by Pew Research Center cited convenience as the top reason why

57 percent of respondents to Pew's survey believe news on social networks is inaccurate vchal/iStock

The majority of adults in the U.S. don’t believe the news they see on social networking sites, yet they keep coming back, largely due to convenience, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

The nonpartisan think tank polled 4,581 U.S. adults who are members of its American Trends Panel, and 68 of respondents said they at least occasionally get news from social media. However, 57 percent believe that news is largely inaccurate. And 42 percent of respondents who prefer to get their news through social media rather than other platforms—print, television, radio—also expect that news to be inaccurate.

Most respondents said getting news via social networking sites did not help or hurt their understanding of current events, while 36 percent believe it was helpful and 15 percent found that it confused them.

Similar to the results of a study that Pew released in June, Republicans were much more skeptical than Democrats.

According to Pew, 72 percent of Republican respondents expect the news they find on social networks to be inaccurate, compared with 46 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents. And just 24 percent of Republicans believe news via social media has helped their understanding of current events, versus 42 percent of Democrats.

So, why turn to social media for news, with all of the skepticism? 21 percent of respondents cited convenience, followed by 8 percent who enjoy interacting with other people on those platforms.

The largest social network is the one most often turned to for news, as 43 percent of respondents said they get news from Facebook, more than double the percentage for second-place YouTube (21 percent). Twitter followed at 12 percent, while platforms including Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat all failed to reach 8 percent.

Reddit led the pack in terms of percentage of its users who see news on the site, at 73 percent—albeit from a much smaller user base—followed by Twitter (71 percent) and Facebook (67 percent).

Finally, Pew shared the following examples of results varying by platform and demographics:

  • Three-quarters of Snapchat’s news consumers are between the ages of 18 and 29, more than any other platform.
  • 61 percent of news consumers on LinkedIn have bachelor’s degrees, followed by Reddit (46 percent) and Twitter (41 percent).

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.
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