Americans grapple with recognizing facts in news stories: Pew survey

The more you identify with a particular point of view, the harder it is to recognize the difference between facts and opinions, and the easier it becomes to accept as “fact” an opinion that aligns with and affirms your world view. This is not something that only the “Liberal Elite Media” or the “Deplorable Right” are doing — it’s something humans do.

Image: A man reads a newspaper on a subway car.Only 26 percent were able to correctly identify all five factual statements. On opinions, about 35 percent were able to correctly identify all five statements. Roughly a quarter got most or all wrong in identifying facts and opinions, the research showed.

The study found that participants’ ability to classify statements as factual or opinion varied widely based on their political awareness, trust in the news media, and “digital savviness” or degree to which they are confident in using digital devices and the internet.

“There is a striking difference in certain Americans in distinguishing what are factual statements and what are not and that depends on one’s level of digital savviness, political savviness,” Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew Research Center, said in an interview.

The study also found that when Americans call a statement “factual” they overwhelmingly also think it is accurate. They tend to disagree with factual statements they incorrectly label as opinions, Pew said.

The research showed Republicans and Democrats were also more likely to think news statements are factual when the statements appeal to their side, even if the statements were opinions.