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Nearly half of Americans say they see misinformation on a daily basis: survey

Younger generations felt more confident in their abilities to spot false or misleading information compared with older individuals.
A person types on a laptop.

Story at a glance

  • The rise of online misinformation has prompted several social media companies and online platforms to reassess their algorithms.

  • According to a new poll conducted by MediaWise and YouGov, a large proportion of Americans report seeing misinformation each day.

  • The researchers assessed individuals’ attitudes and behaviors regarding the false information and compared findings between generations.

As social media platforms and search engines double down on fighting misinformation ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, new survey results from MediaWise, the Poynter Institute’s digital media literacy initiative, show 47 percent of Americans see false or misleading information every day. 

The global survey tracked different perceptions and behaviors among Gen Z, Baby Boomers and other generations across the United States, Brazil, The United Kingdom, Germany, Nigeria, India and Japan. A total of 8,585 respondents were included in the study, which took place between June and July 2022.

Of the 1,269 individuals surveyed in the United States, the majority were Millennials (ages 26-41), followed by Generation X (ages 42 to 57), and Baby Boomers (ages 58 to 67). 

Overall, Gen Z (ages 18 to 2), Millennials and Gen X felt the most confident in their abilities to verify a post, image or video, while over half of those under age 26 are concerned their family members are exposed to misinformation.

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However, the largest proportion of U.S. respondents (36 percent) said they’re only “somewhat confident” in their abilities to detect false or misleading information.

“The majority of respondents from each generation placed high value on two key factors when deciding if online information is true or false: the source and the facts,” said Alex Mahadevan, director of MediaWise, in a statement.  

He continued, “I was pleasantly surprised to see one-third of those surveyed said they always or most of the time correct someone they know when that person shares misinformation. These are important conversations, because false or misleading information — especially in the form of scams or health advice — can really harm older adults.”

Individuals also reported checking the date of the post and using a search engine to do further research when determining a post’s veracity. 

In the United States, just 30 percent of Gen Z and 43 percent of Millennials reported seeing false or misleading information each day, compared with 54 percent of older generations. 

Gen Z and Millennials were also more likely to engage in lateral reading, or opening multiple tabs and performing multiple searches, when using a search engine to verify information compared with older individuals. 

Younger individuals tended to be more concerned about the impact of false or misleading information on young people’s education and public health than their older counterparts. 

The majority of U.S. individuals surveyed in each generation were white and had a high school education and the report was funded in part by Google.