Story at a glance

  • A majority of Americans distrust political and election news on social sites.
  • There is little difference between Democrats and Republicans on how much they trust or distrust social media platforms for news.
  • People who relied on social media for most of their news, however, were less likely to worry about made-up news online.

Even if you’re not on social media, you’ve heard of news on social media. But that doesn’t mean you trust it. A new Pew Research Center study finds that a majority of Americans distrust news they see on social media, and it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle they fall on. 

About 9 out of 10 adults in America have heard of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Almost three-quarters have heard of LinkedIn, and two-thirds have heard of Reddit. But while Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are the social media platforms most commonly used as sources for political and election news, they're also among the most distrusted. 

While 25 percent of adults in America used Facebook for political news in the past week, 59 percent of Americans surveyed distrusted the platform as a source for such news. And the numbers were nearly identical on both sides of the aisle: 59 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic distrusted Facebook, compared to 62 percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican. 

But while most Americans rely on other platforms for political news, 18 percent of adults rely mostly on social media. And those who use it, trust it — a lot. More than half of these adults say that they trust the information they see on social media, compared to 20 percent of other adults. Meanwhile, while half of most adults say they are concerned about the influence of made-up news during elections, only 37 percent of people who use social media for most of their news say they are very concerned about the issue. 

The study published Jan. 29 surveyed about 12,000 adults between Oct. 29 and Nov. 11 of last year, at the time of the 2019 elections. While it found major differences between Democrat and Republican trust in other sources, the distrust of social media was one both sides of the aisle could agree on. 

Published on Jan 29, 2020