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THIRD ANNUAL
DISINFORMATION
IN SOCIETY
REPORT
THIRD ANNUAL
DISINFORMATION
IN SOCIETY REPORT
How Americans Perceive Intentionally
Misleading News or Information
By the Institute for Public Relations
Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR,
& Anetra Henry
March 2022
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 1
INTRODUCTION
The third annual Institute for Public Relations (IPR) “Disinformation in Society” study examines and
tracks how disinformation — defined as deliberately misleading or biased information — is spread in
U.S. society. The poll of 2,200 Americans conducted November 10-14, 2021, by Morning Consult explores
the prevalence of disinformation in the U.S., the parties most responsible for sharing disinformation,
the level of trust the American public has in different information sources, and whose job it is to combat
disinformation. Additionally, the report focuses on major issues facing society. New items added to this
year’s report included added sources of information, how people perceive the impact of disinformation
on themselves and society, and how disinformation affects COVID-19 and vaccination uptake.
IPR differentiates between disinformation and misinformation: Disinformation is the deliberate spread
of misleading or biased information, while misinformation may be spread without the sender having
harmful intentions. For consistency and clarity in terminology, the report specifically uses disinformation
as opposed to “fake news” that may have multiple meanings.
Special thanks to oursponsors:
INTRODUCTION
K
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KEY
FINDINGS
KEY
16 KEY FINDINGS
More than two-thirds of Americans on both sides of the political aisle believe disinformation and misinformation
are “majorproblems” in society, a significant jump from last year.
An equal number of respondents (69%) deem misinformation (up from 61% in 2020) and disinformation (up from 63% in
2020) to be major problems in society, more so than infectious disease outbreaks (63%), international (58%) or domestic
(56%) terrorism, and climate change (55%). Nearly 9-out-of-10 believe false news or information is a problem in the U.S.
The two most significant problems facing Americans are health care costs (76%) and the economy (73%).
Nearly three-quarters of respondents believe disinformation will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seventy-two percent of respondents agreed that disinformation will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly that same
percentage (73%) said that much disinformation exists about the COVID-19 vaccination.
More than two-thirds of respondents say disinformation is a threat to democracy and undermines the election process.
Seventy-five percent believe disinformation is a threat to democracy while 73% say it undermines the election process,
up from 69% last year. Only 6% or fewer disagree with these statements.
Seven-out-of-10 Americans said disinformation has a negative impact on society and well-being.
Seventy-one percent of respondents said disinformation increases the polarization of political parties while 63% said it
infringes on human rights. Also, more than half (52%) said encountering disinformation makes people feel "anxious or
stressed," impacting mental health.
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©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS
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K
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FINDINGS
KEY
Forthe third yearin a row, Americans view theirfamily and friends as the most trustworthy sources foraccurate
news orinformation and the least likely to spread disinformation.
Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) respondents said they had at least “some” trust in their family as a source for accurate news and
information, closely followed by friends (74%) and people like me (73%). Only a small percentage said their family (12%)
and friends (11%) were “very” responsible for spreading disinformation.
ThedividebetweenRepublicansandDemocratsandtheirperceptionsoftrustinmainstreamsourcescontinuesto grow.
Political party affiliation was the most significant difference affecting the perceived trustworthiness of sources and that
gap widens year over year. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to trust mainstream media sources such as
MSNBC (+43 percentage points), The New York Times (+40 percentage points), The Washington Post (+35 percentage
points), while Republicans were more likely than Democrats to trust Fox News (+31 percentage points). Democrats were
also more likely to trust journalists overall by 37 percentage points over Republicans.
Republicans and Democrats find common ground in local news sources, but still differin otherareas.
More than half of both parties had at least “some” trust in local broadcast news (64%) and local newspapers (63%).
Political affiliation also affected the level of trust in business sources. Coinciding with the new presidential administration,
trust of Democrats in business sources, such as CEOs and major companies, rose this year, while Republican trust stayed
fairly consistent. Republican trust in the government fell significantly, while the opposite happened with Democrats.
Facebook, politicians, and the U.S. government were the top three sources responsible forspreading
disinformation to the public.
Again, Facebook was perceived to be one of the biggest offenders for spreading disinformation along with politicians
Seventy-two percent believed Facebook and 77% believed politicians were at least “somewhat” responsible for spreading
disinformation to the public, more so than the US government (67%), Chinese government (64%), orRussian government (63%)
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 3
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6
7
8
KEY
FINDINGS
KEY
Twitter (60%) and YouTube (53%) were the other social media platforms deemed at least “somewhat” responsible by more
than half of the respondents for spreading disinformation.
Most said President Biden and othergovernment entities should be most responsible forcombatting disinformation.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents said President Biden is most responsible for combatting disinformation followed by the
U.S. government (66%) and Congress (63%).
Nearly one-quarterof Americans deemed nearly every information source to be “very responsible” forcombatting
disinformation
Of the 34 sources respondents evaluated, 33 of them were identified as being “very responsible” for combatting
disinformation by at least 25% of respondents. The source considered least responsible for spreading disinformation is “my
employer” (24%).
The most trusted sources were also the ones doing the best at combatting disinformation
Sources who were the best at combatting disinformation, such as "people like me" and local broadcast news (58% and 51%
said they combat it at least “somewhat well,” respectively) were also the most trusted sources.
Significant gaps exist between those who should be most responsible forcombatting disinformation and how well
they are actually doing it.
Sixty-seven percent said President Biden should be “very responsible” for combatting disinformation, but only 21% said he
was actually doing so “very well.” Similar gaps were found with those entities who scored the highest in responsibility for
combatting disinformation, including the U.S. government (66% vs. 14%), Congress (63% vs. 9%), journalists (58% vs. 9%),
and federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (60% vs. 12%). Fifty-five percent continue
to find former President Donald Trump to be “very responsible” for combatting disinformation, but only 22% said he was
doing “very well” in combatting it.
4
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS
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FINDINGS
KEY
A growing numberof people are not going to additional sources to fact check
The number of Americans who said they “often” or “always” go to other websites or media sources to check whether
the news or information they are reading is true and accurate fell from 47% in 2019 to 38% in 2021. Thirty-seven
percent “sometimes” go to other sources, while 19% “rarely” or “never” check alternative sources.
Americans are still confident in theirability to recognize disinformation
Nearly 4-in-5 Americans (78%) feel at least “somewhat” confident in their ability to recognize news or information
that misrepresents reality or is false, while 12% remain “not very confident.”
Disinformation continues to be pervasive, but some said they are seeing it slightly less frequently.
More than two-thirds (69%) of respondents report seeing news or information that misrepresents reality at
least once a week. Over one-third (38%) see it every day or almost every day. This is down from 74% and
49% respectively.
Four-in-10 Americans said they avoid the news because of the amount of disinformation
Forty percent said they avoid watching or listening to the news because of the amount of disinformation, up from
31% in 2020. Additionally, 30% said they are more likely to read sources outside the U.S. (up from 24% last year)
because of the amount of disinformation in the U.S.
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 5
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©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 6
FINDINGS FULL FIND
INGS FULL FINDINGS
FULL FINDINGS FULL
FULL FINDINGS
U.S. ISSUES AND PROBLEMS
Americans are more concerned about disinformation and misinformation than everbefore, with respondents ranking
misleading information as a majorproblem more often than infectious disease outbreaks, climate change, and domestic or
international terrorism.
Respondents evaluated the severity of 35 issues facing Americans. Health care costs (76%) and the economy (73%) were the top
two that were identified as “major problems” by nearly three-quarters of respondents.
Both misinformation (69%)* and disinformation (69%)** saw increases in the number of people who said these were major
problems compared to 2019 and 2020. Misinformation was up eight percentage points (from 61% in 2020), and disinformation
increased by 11 percentage points (from 58% in 2020.)
*Misinformation was defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is an intent to mislead,”
while **disinformation was defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information.”
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 7
NOTE: For a full summary of each survey question, please download the full report.
Misinformation was defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is an intent to mislead,” while disinformation was defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information.”
*PP means "percentage point". Arrows represent a decrease/increase from 2020. No arrow indicates new in 2021.
Homeless
-ness
72%
Hunger/
Poverty
71%
11pp
4pp*
11pp 9pp
2pp 6pp 6pp 9pp 11pp
13pp 7pp 16pp
8pp
Health
Care
Costs
76%
The
Economy
73%
Government
Corruption
71%
Crime
71%
Disinformation
inthenews
69%
Adequate
funding
of social
security
64%
Infectious
disease
outbreaks
63%
Illegal drug
use or
abuse
61%
Gun
violence
60%
Quality of
education
58%
International
terrorism
58%
The budget
deficit
61%
Misinformation
inthenews
69%
Top 15 Issues Viewed as “MajorProblems” in 2021
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 8
In 2021, domestic issues continued to be a primary focus for respondents. Seven-out-of-10 respondents said homelessness (72%),
government corruption (71%), crime (71%), and hunger/poverty (71%) were all major problems.
Several issues were noted to be major problems more often compared to the previous year, including domestic terrorism (47%
in 2020 to 56% in 2021 – previously defined as just “terrorism”), racial discrimination (43% in 2020 to 52% in 2021), and quality
of education (49% in 2020 to 58% in 2021). Data security surged from 51% in 2020 to 64% in 2021 — an increase of 13 percentage
points.
Least important problems
While 63% of respondents agreed infectious disease outbreaks were major problems, 44% said COVID-19 vaccine refusal was a
“minor” problem or “not a problem at all.” Discrimination-related issues were more likely to be seen as “minor” or "not a problem
at all" as well. These discriminations included: LGBTQ+ (53%), gender (52%), gender identity discrimination (52%), religion (52%),
and racial discrimination (44%).
Do Americans believe false news or
disinformation is a problem in the U.S.?
Eighty-seven percent of Americans, up from 84% last year,
agreed that news or information that misrepresents reality or
is false is a problem in the U.S.
* Due to rounding, percentages may not always add up to 100%.
YES
87%
NO
5%
DON’TKNOW
/NOOPINION
8%
FULL FINDINGS FULL
FINDINGS FULL FIND
INGS FULL FINDINGS
FULL FINDINGS FULL
FULL FINDINGS
IMPACT OF DISINFORMATION ON SOCIETY
Disinformation is still a complex issue for Americans, but it’s clear that most respondents, regardless of their political affiliation, believe
it has a negative impact on society. Seventy-five percent said that disinformation is a threat to democracy, 73% said it undermines the
election process, and 63% said it infringes on human rights. Fewer than 6% disagreed with each of these statements.
Seven-out-of-10 respondents also believed that disinformation increases the polarization of political parties.*
One-quarter (25%) of respondents believed that concerns about disinformation are exaggerated while most (48%) did not.
Disinformation also has an impact on the mental health for the majority of respondents. Over half (52%) said encountering
disinformation makes them feel anxious or stressed.
*Political polarization was deemed as a major problem by 52% of respondents (but did not make the top 15 list of issues).
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 9
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 10
L
D-
S
L
Disinformation
is a threat to our
democracy.
Disinformation
increases the
polarization of
political parties.
Concerns about
disinformation
are exaggerated.
Disinformation
undermines our
election process.
Disinformation
infringes on
human rights.
Encountering
disinformation
makes me feel
anxious orstressed.
Agree
75%
Agree
73%
Don’t Know
8%
Don’t Know
7%
Disagree
6%
Disagree
5%
Neither
13%
Neither
15%
Agree
71%
Disagree
48%
Don’t Know
9%
Don’t Know
7%
Disagree
4%
Agree
25%
Neither
15%
Neither
20%
Agree
63%
Don’t Know
8%
Disagree
8%
Neither
22%
Agree
52%
Don’t Know
6%
Disagree
16%
Neither
25%
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 11
F
F
I
F
Impact of disinformation on the COVID-19 pandemic
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Americans believed that disinformation will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic; only 7% disagreed.
Also, a similar percentage said much disinformation exists about the COVID-19 vaccination (73%), with only 6% disagreeing.
Disinformation will prolong the
COVID-19 pandemic.
Much disinformation exists about
the COVID-19 vaccination.
Agree: 72%
	 Neither Agree nor Disagree: 14%
Disagree: 7%
Don’t know: 6%
Agree: 73%
	 Neither Agree nor Disagree: 15%
Disagree: 6%
Don’t know: 6%
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 11
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 12
FULL FINDINGS FULL
FINDINGS FULL FIND
INGS FULL FINDINGS
FULL FINDINGS FULL
FULL FINDINGS
MOST TRUSTWORTHY SOURCES FOR
ACCURATE NEWS AND INFORMATION
Americans placed “a lot” of trust in theirfamilies, friends, and like-minded people.
Of the information sources that Americans said they trust “a lot,” the highest-ranking source was families (35%), followed by Dr.
Anthony Fauci (29%), “people like me” (27%), and friends (22%). Politically, 22% have “a lot” of trust in President Joe Biden and Vice
President Kamala Harris, while 19% have “a lot” of trust in former President Donald Trump. Overall, respondents were more likely to
have “some” trust rather than “a lot” of trust in each information source.
The least-trusted sources of information that respondents said they did “not trust at all” included the Russian government (61%),
the Chinese government (60%), former President Donald Trump (45%), Qanon (43%), and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (41%).
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 13
Information Sources with the Highest Trust Scores
Mainstream media sources were considered more trustworthy than most social media sites for providing accurate news or information.
Social media platforms that many Americans said were “not at all” trustworthy included TikTok (38%), Snapchat (35%), Twitter (35%),
Facebook (33%), and Instagram (28%). However, 51% said they had at least “some” trust in YouTube, which was the most trusted social
media site.
Differences Between Political Parties and Trust
Political parties were the greatest predictor of differences among Americans and their level of trust in information sources. The largest
gap was between the perceived trustworthiness of the current U.S. president and the former president. Only 12% of Republicans
said they had at least “some trust” in President Biden to provide accurate news and information, compared to 81%of Democrats.
Conversely, only 13% of Democrats had at least “some trust” in former President Trump, compared to 81% of Republicans.
51%
Asexpected, sourcesconsidered more liberal were rated more trustworthybyDemocrats, and more conservative sources
were rated higherbyRepublicans. Democratswere more likelythan Republicansto trust mainstream media sources,
showcasing a wide gap between the two parties. Democratswere more likelyto trust MSNBC (+43 percentage points), The
New York Times (+40 percentage points), and The Washington Post (+35 percentage points). Republicanswere more likely
than Democratsto trust Fox News (+31 percentage points). On the otherhand, some publicationsreceived lowlevelsoftrust
from eitherpolitical party, including Qanon and Breitbart. Overall, Democratswere also more likelythan Republicansto trust
journalists(+37 percentage points).
Regarding the media, one area ofagreement between Democratsand Republicansconcerned the trustworthinessoflocal
newspapersand broadcast TV news. More than halfofboth partiessaid theyhad “some” trust in local newspapersand local
broadcast news. These were the most trusted media sources, making local media important sourcesofinformation for
aligning two political partieswith significant trust differences.
In some areas, a newpresidential administration affected trust levels, depending on the political affiliation ofrespondents.
Republicanstrusted the U.S. government significantlylessin 2021 with 29% having “some trust,” compared to 68% the
previousyear. Conversely, trust that Democratshave in the U.S. government increased by18 percentage pointsto 61%. Both
Republicansand Democratsexperienced slight declinesin trust in theirlocal government, 63% and 47%, respectively, in
compared to 66% vs. 56% in 2020.
Political affiliation also affected the level oftrust in businesssources. Coinciding with a newpresidential administration,
Democratswere more likelyto trust CEOsand majorcompanies/corporationsthan in 2020. Forty-two percent had “some”
trust in majorcompanies/corporations, compared to 24% the previousyear. Similarly, 33% ofDemocratshad some trust in
CEOs, compared to 15% the previousyear. Regarding Republicans, theysawminimal shift in theirtrust ofthese two sources
(majorcompanies: 36% in 2021 to 37% in 2020; CEOs: 28% in 2021 to 30% in 2020).
Political affiliation also determined the level oftrust respondentshave in collegesand universities, with Democrats
determining highereducation institutionswere more trustworthythan Republicansby32 percentage points. Added to 2021’s
analysiswasthe level oftrust people have in theiremployer. Overall, 38% ofrespondentshad “some” trust in theiremployer
with Republicansmore likelyto saythisthan Democrats(49% vs. 36%).
©2022, INSTITUTE
FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS
14
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 15
The Impact of Political Affiliation on Trust
FINDINGS FULL FIND
INGS FULL FINDINGS
FULL FINDINGS FULL
FULL FINDINGS
SOURCES RESPONSIBILE FOR
SPREADING DISINFORMATION*
Politicians, Facebook, and the U.S. Government were considered most responsible for
spreading disinformation again this year.
Politicians (77%), Facebook (72%), and the U.S. government (67%) were the top three sources respondents charged as being at least
“somewhat” responsible for spreading disinformation to the public.
Political party lines divided the list of culpable sources. Seventy-four percent of Democrats said Republican senators and
representatives were at least “somewhat” responsible for spreading disinformation, while 80% of Republicans said the same of
Democratic senators and representatives. However, nearly half the respondents said their own party’s members of Congress are at
least “somewhat” responsible for spreading disinformation (44% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans).
*Disinformation is defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information.”
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 16
Only 17% of Republicans said former President Trump was “very responsible” for spreading disinformation, compared to 68% of
Democrats. On the other hand, 66% of Republicans said President Joe Biden was “very responsible” for spreading disinformation,
compared to 20% of Democrats. Republicans were also more likely than Democrats to say that journalists were “very responsible” for
spreading disinformation (51% vs. 23%, respectively).
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 17
CNN
Among the business sources listed, marketers and advertisers (61%), public relations professionals (58%), and companies/
corporations (57%) were considered culpable for spreading disinformation. Along with Facebook (72%), the other two social
platforms deemed at least “somewhat” responsible for spreading disinformation by at least half of the respondents were Twitter
(60%) and YouTube (53%). In the media, journalists (64%), Fox News (TV) (61%), and CNN (57%) were all reported by at least half of
the respondents to be at least “somewhat responsible” for spreading disinformation.
Least responsible forspreading disinformation
Personal networks are the least responsible for spreading disinformation.
Personal connections and networks were identified as being some of the least responsible sources for spreading disinformation. In
terms of the networks that are “very responsible” for spreading disinformation, only 12% of respondents said their family, 11% said
friends, and 9% blamed their employer. Similarly, Americans said “people like me” (14%, up from 10% last year) and “people NOT like
me” (17%, up from 10% in 2020) are “very responsible” for spreading disinformation.
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 18
FULL FINDINGS FULL
FINDINGS FULL FIND
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FULL FINDINGS FULL
FULL FINDINGS
RESPONSIBILITY FOR
COMBATTING DISINFORMATION
Americans said President Biden should be most responsible forcombatting disinformation.
More than half of respondents pointed to 16 groups and individuals they consider to be “very responsible” for combatting disinformation.
President Biden (67%) was deemed most often to be the source is “very responsible” for combatting disinformation, followed by the U.S.
government (66%), Congress (63%), federal agencies (60%), and cable news (60%).
Of the 34 sources available for respondents to evaluate, 33 were identified as being “very responsible” for combatting disinformation by at
least 25% of respondents. “My employer” was named by only 24% of respondents to be “very responsible” for combatting disinformation.
Differences among political demographics were not significant regarding this responsibility.
*Political polarization was deemed as a major problem by 52% of respondents (but did not make the aforementioned top 15 list of issues).
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 19
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 20
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HOW WELL SOURCES ARE COMBATTING DISINFORMATION IN THE MEDIA
“People like me,” federal agencies, and local broadcast news did the best job at trying to combat disinformation.
For the third year in a row, more than half of Americans said, “people like me” (58%, up from 51% in 2020) are doing at least “somewhat
well” in combatting disinformation. Local broadcast news (51%), local newspapers (48%) and fact-checking websites such as Snopes and
PolitiFact (47%) were credited with helping as well.
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 21
F
I
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More than half of the respondents said the following were doing “not too well” or “not at all well” in combatting disinformation that
appears in the media: social media sites (56%), celebrities (56%), Congress (56%), marketers and advertisers (52%), and political
activist groups (52%). Concerning businesses, 49% said CEOs were doing “not too well”; 30% said the same about their employer.
Political affiliation played a role as Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say President Joe Biden was doing at least
“somewhat well” in combatting disinformation (65% vs. 19%, respectively). On the other hand, 66% of Republicans thought former
President Trump was doing at least “somewhat well” compared to only 23% of Democrats who gave Trump a high score.
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 22
FINDINGS FULL FIND
INGS FULL FINDINGS
FULL FINDINGS FULL
FULL FINDINGS
EXPOSURE TO DISINFORMATION,
NEWS, AND MEDIA
Frequency of disinformation
At least one-third of Americans (38%) said they come across false news or
information almost every day, and over two-thirds (69%) reported contact with
it at least once a week.
Confidence in ability to recognize disinformation
Overall, Americans continued to be confident in their ability to recognize news
or information that mispresents reality or is false. Again, this year, four-in-five
Americans said they are confident in their ability; 29% are “very confident,”
and 49% are “somewhat confident.” Twelve percent said they are “not very
confident,” while only 2% said they are “not at all confident.” These are similar
findings to the past two years.
* Due to rounding, percentages may not always
appear to add up to 100%.
Every day or
almost every
day: 38%
At least once a
week: 31%
At least once a
month: 13%
Don’t
know/
No
opinion:
10%
Rarely
or never:
8%
Verifying sources
The number of Americans who go to other websites to check whether the information they are reading is true and accurate continues to
fall. In 2021, 38% said they “often” or “always” check, a drop from 47% in 2019. Thirty-seven percent “sometimes” go to other sources,
while 19% “rarely” or “never” check alternative sources.
Primary source of news
Television (37%), news websites (16%), and social
media (14%) continue to be the top three sources where
respondents primarily get their news.
How often, if ever, do you go
to other websites or media
sources to check whether the
news or information you are
reading is true and accurate?
Sometimes:
37%
Television:
37%
News
Sites:
16%
Newspapers/
Magazines: 4%
Radio: 3%
Podcasts: 3%
Social
Media:
14%
Friends &
Family: 6%
Phone
NewsAlerts: 6%
Other: 5%
Often:
27%
Rarely:
12% Always:
11%
Don’t
Know:
6%
Never:
7%
* Due to rounding, percentages may not always appear to add up to 100%.
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 23
Sharing news on social media
Fewer respondents shared news or public information with others on their social
networks. Over half (52%) of Americans said they rarely or never share news on
social media compared to 47% in 2020. Only 12% said they share news and public
information every day or almost every day on their social channels.
Those who said they rarely or never share information on their social networks
said it was primarily because it’s no one’s business what news they consume
(34%). Other reasons noted included that they don’t use social networks very
often (32%), they don’t want to start an argument with friends/followers (31%),
and they are unsure of the accuracy (27%).
Reasons why respondents
“rarely or never” share
news on social media
This chart adds up to more than
100% because respondents could
select one or more options.
Every day
or almost
every
day:
12%
Don’t
know
5%
At least once
a week: 18%
Rarely or
never: 52%
Atleastoncea
m
onth: 12%
* Due to rounding, percentages may not always appear to add up to 100%.
Unsure of
accuracy:
27%
It’s no
one’s
business
what news or
information I
consume: 34%
I don’t
use social
networks
very often:
32%
Don’t want
to start an
argument with
friends or
followers:
31%
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 24
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 25
I avoid watching, reading, or listening
to the news because of the amount of
disinformation.
I’m more likely to read sources outside of the
U.S. because of the amount of disinformation
in the U.S. media.
C
C
Agree:
40%
Agree:
30%
Neither:
25%
Neither:
26%
Disagree:
29%
Disagree:
34%
Don’t
Know:
5%
Don’t
Know:
9%
Impact of Disinformation on News Consumption
Disinformation also has an impact on behaviors of Americans and how they consume news. Four-out-of-ten said they avoid watching or
listening to the news because of the amount of disinformation. Additionally, 30% said they are more likely to read sources outside the U.S.
because of the amount of disinformation in the U.S.
Respondents were asked the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the following statements*:
* Due to rounding, percentages may not always appear to add up to 100%.
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 25
CONCLUSION CONCL
CONCLUSION CONCL
CONCLUSION
Disinformation continues to be a significant societal problem, yet most information sources do an inadequate job at combatting it,
according to most Americans. People are more likely to trust sources that are closest to them, such as friends and family. Trust in
sources is also strongly correlated with who is doing well at combatting disinformation.
Disinformation has significant consequences on society. People believe disinformation will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and
affect COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Americans also noted disinformation has an impact on the fundamentals of society, threatening
democracy, election processes, and human rights.
While political party affiliation continues to highlight the gap between what and who Republicans and Democrats perceive as
trustworthy sources, the new presidential administration has shifted trust in institutions. For some key sources, trust among
Democrats increased, especially in government and business, while Republicans saw a decrease.
The gulf is also widening between political parties and how well they trust mainstream information sources. Overall, Democrats
trusted journalists significantly more than Republicans. Where the two parties come together is with local news, even though the
pool and quality of newspapers has shrunk significantly over the past 15 years, according to a 2020 report from Dr. Penelope Muse
Abernathy. At least 1,800 communities that had a local news outlet in 2004 are without one in 2020, leaving a news desert.
* Due to rounding, percentages may not always appear to add up to 100%.
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 26
While the past couple of years have seen many organizations paying more attention in the workplace to social issues, mental health, and
diversity, equity, and inclusion, few focus on media literacy to help people better combat disinformation. Additionally, companies can
invest in local news, which saw little differentiation of trustworthiness based on political lines, one of the few sources that can make that
claim. This may help alleviate political polarization that respondents said disinformation helps to increase.
Overall, respondents believe disinformation is a significant issue and all sources noted in this report were responsible for helping to
combat it, even friends and family. With more sophisticated technologies — the impact of disinformation will continue to be felt around the
world. Institutions and individuals must actively work to combat it to help stop its spread.
Methodology:
This poll was conducted between November 10-14, 2021, by Morning Consult among a national sample of 2,200 adults. The interviews
were conducted online, and the data was weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, educational attainment,
gender, race, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 27
About the Institute forPublic Relations
Founded in 1956, the Institute for Public Relations is an independent, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the science beneath the art
of public relations™. IPR creates, curates, and promotes research and initiatives that empower professionals with actionable insights
and intelligence they can put to immediate use. IPR predicts and analyzes global factors transforming the profession and amplifies and
engages the professional globally through thought leadership and programming. All research is available free at www.instituteforpr.org
and provides the basis for IPR’s professional conferences and events.
Forthe full report and charts, please visit the IPR website at https://instituteforpr.org/2020-disinformation-report/.
If you are an academic researcher who would like access to the data, please contact Tina McCorkindale at tina@instituteforpr.org.
Primary Researchers
Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR, Institute for Public Relations
Anetra Henry, Institute for Public Relations
Graphic Design
Britt Buzan, Cartero Creative
Communication and Web
Publishing
Cindy Duong, Institute for Public Relations
Erica Hall, Institute for Public Relations
Sarah Jackson, Institute for Public Relations
Brittany Higginbotham, Institute for Public Relations
Soumya Kona, Institute for Public Relations
Olivia Kresic, Institute for Public Relations
©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 28

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IPR Third Annual Disinformation in Society Report

  • 1. THIRD ANNUAL DISINFORMATION IN SOCIETY REPORT THIRD ANNUAL DISINFORMATION IN SOCIETY REPORT How Americans Perceive Intentionally Misleading News or Information By the Institute for Public Relations Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR, & Anetra Henry March 2022
  • 2. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 1 INTRODUCTION The third annual Institute for Public Relations (IPR) “Disinformation in Society” study examines and tracks how disinformation — defined as deliberately misleading or biased information — is spread in U.S. society. The poll of 2,200 Americans conducted November 10-14, 2021, by Morning Consult explores the prevalence of disinformation in the U.S., the parties most responsible for sharing disinformation, the level of trust the American public has in different information sources, and whose job it is to combat disinformation. Additionally, the report focuses on major issues facing society. New items added to this year’s report included added sources of information, how people perceive the impact of disinformation on themselves and society, and how disinformation affects COVID-19 and vaccination uptake. IPR differentiates between disinformation and misinformation: Disinformation is the deliberate spread of misleading or biased information, while misinformation may be spread without the sender having harmful intentions. For consistency and clarity in terminology, the report specifically uses disinformation as opposed to “fake news” that may have multiple meanings. Special thanks to oursponsors: INTRODUCTION K F K
  • 3. KEY FINDINGS KEY 16 KEY FINDINGS More than two-thirds of Americans on both sides of the political aisle believe disinformation and misinformation are “majorproblems” in society, a significant jump from last year. An equal number of respondents (69%) deem misinformation (up from 61% in 2020) and disinformation (up from 63% in 2020) to be major problems in society, more so than infectious disease outbreaks (63%), international (58%) or domestic (56%) terrorism, and climate change (55%). Nearly 9-out-of-10 believe false news or information is a problem in the U.S. The two most significant problems facing Americans are health care costs (76%) and the economy (73%). Nearly three-quarters of respondents believe disinformation will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-two percent of respondents agreed that disinformation will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly that same percentage (73%) said that much disinformation exists about the COVID-19 vaccination. More than two-thirds of respondents say disinformation is a threat to democracy and undermines the election process. Seventy-five percent believe disinformation is a threat to democracy while 73% say it undermines the election process, up from 69% last year. Only 6% or fewer disagree with these statements. Seven-out-of-10 Americans said disinformation has a negative impact on society and well-being. Seventy-one percent of respondents said disinformation increases the polarization of political parties while 63% said it infringes on human rights. Also, more than half (52%) said encountering disinformation makes people feel "anxious or stressed," impacting mental health. 2 ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 1 2 3 4
  • 4. K F K KEY FINDINGS KEY Forthe third yearin a row, Americans view theirfamily and friends as the most trustworthy sources foraccurate news orinformation and the least likely to spread disinformation. Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) respondents said they had at least “some” trust in their family as a source for accurate news and information, closely followed by friends (74%) and people like me (73%). Only a small percentage said their family (12%) and friends (11%) were “very” responsible for spreading disinformation. ThedividebetweenRepublicansandDemocratsandtheirperceptionsoftrustinmainstreamsourcescontinuesto grow. Political party affiliation was the most significant difference affecting the perceived trustworthiness of sources and that gap widens year over year. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to trust mainstream media sources such as MSNBC (+43 percentage points), The New York Times (+40 percentage points), The Washington Post (+35 percentage points), while Republicans were more likely than Democrats to trust Fox News (+31 percentage points). Democrats were also more likely to trust journalists overall by 37 percentage points over Republicans. Republicans and Democrats find common ground in local news sources, but still differin otherareas. More than half of both parties had at least “some” trust in local broadcast news (64%) and local newspapers (63%). Political affiliation also affected the level of trust in business sources. Coinciding with the new presidential administration, trust of Democrats in business sources, such as CEOs and major companies, rose this year, while Republican trust stayed fairly consistent. Republican trust in the government fell significantly, while the opposite happened with Democrats. Facebook, politicians, and the U.S. government were the top three sources responsible forspreading disinformation to the public. Again, Facebook was perceived to be one of the biggest offenders for spreading disinformation along with politicians Seventy-two percent believed Facebook and 77% believed politicians were at least “somewhat” responsible for spreading disinformation to the public, more so than the US government (67%), Chinese government (64%), orRussian government (63%) ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 3 5 6 7 8
  • 5. KEY FINDINGS KEY Twitter (60%) and YouTube (53%) were the other social media platforms deemed at least “somewhat” responsible by more than half of the respondents for spreading disinformation. Most said President Biden and othergovernment entities should be most responsible forcombatting disinformation. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said President Biden is most responsible for combatting disinformation followed by the U.S. government (66%) and Congress (63%). Nearly one-quarterof Americans deemed nearly every information source to be “very responsible” forcombatting disinformation Of the 34 sources respondents evaluated, 33 of them were identified as being “very responsible” for combatting disinformation by at least 25% of respondents. The source considered least responsible for spreading disinformation is “my employer” (24%). The most trusted sources were also the ones doing the best at combatting disinformation Sources who were the best at combatting disinformation, such as "people like me" and local broadcast news (58% and 51% said they combat it at least “somewhat well,” respectively) were also the most trusted sources. Significant gaps exist between those who should be most responsible forcombatting disinformation and how well they are actually doing it. Sixty-seven percent said President Biden should be “very responsible” for combatting disinformation, but only 21% said he was actually doing so “very well.” Similar gaps were found with those entities who scored the highest in responsibility for combatting disinformation, including the U.S. government (66% vs. 14%), Congress (63% vs. 9%), journalists (58% vs. 9%), and federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (60% vs. 12%). Fifty-five percent continue to find former President Donald Trump to be “very responsible” for combatting disinformation, but only 22% said he was doing “very well” in combatting it. 4 ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 9 10 11 12
  • 6. F I F KEY FINDINGS KEY A growing numberof people are not going to additional sources to fact check The number of Americans who said they “often” or “always” go to other websites or media sources to check whether the news or information they are reading is true and accurate fell from 47% in 2019 to 38% in 2021. Thirty-seven percent “sometimes” go to other sources, while 19% “rarely” or “never” check alternative sources. Americans are still confident in theirability to recognize disinformation Nearly 4-in-5 Americans (78%) feel at least “somewhat” confident in their ability to recognize news or information that misrepresents reality or is false, while 12% remain “not very confident.” Disinformation continues to be pervasive, but some said they are seeing it slightly less frequently. More than two-thirds (69%) of respondents report seeing news or information that misrepresents reality at least once a week. Over one-third (38%) see it every day or almost every day. This is down from 74% and 49% respectively. Four-in-10 Americans said they avoid the news because of the amount of disinformation Forty percent said they avoid watching or listening to the news because of the amount of disinformation, up from 31% in 2020. Additionally, 30% said they are more likely to read sources outside the U.S. (up from 24% last year) because of the amount of disinformation in the U.S. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 5 13 14 15 16
  • 7. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 6 FINDINGS FULL FIND INGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FULL FINDINGS U.S. ISSUES AND PROBLEMS Americans are more concerned about disinformation and misinformation than everbefore, with respondents ranking misleading information as a majorproblem more often than infectious disease outbreaks, climate change, and domestic or international terrorism. Respondents evaluated the severity of 35 issues facing Americans. Health care costs (76%) and the economy (73%) were the top two that were identified as “major problems” by nearly three-quarters of respondents. Both misinformation (69%)* and disinformation (69%)** saw increases in the number of people who said these were major problems compared to 2019 and 2020. Misinformation was up eight percentage points (from 61% in 2020), and disinformation increased by 11 percentage points (from 58% in 2020.) *Misinformation was defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is an intent to mislead,” while **disinformation was defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information.”
  • 8. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 7 NOTE: For a full summary of each survey question, please download the full report. Misinformation was defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is an intent to mislead,” while disinformation was defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information.” *PP means "percentage point". Arrows represent a decrease/increase from 2020. No arrow indicates new in 2021. Homeless -ness 72% Hunger/ Poverty 71% 11pp 4pp* 11pp 9pp 2pp 6pp 6pp 9pp 11pp 13pp 7pp 16pp 8pp Health Care Costs 76% The Economy 73% Government Corruption 71% Crime 71% Disinformation inthenews 69% Adequate funding of social security 64% Infectious disease outbreaks 63% Illegal drug use or abuse 61% Gun violence 60% Quality of education 58% International terrorism 58% The budget deficit 61% Misinformation inthenews 69% Top 15 Issues Viewed as “MajorProblems” in 2021
  • 9. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 8 In 2021, domestic issues continued to be a primary focus for respondents. Seven-out-of-10 respondents said homelessness (72%), government corruption (71%), crime (71%), and hunger/poverty (71%) were all major problems. Several issues were noted to be major problems more often compared to the previous year, including domestic terrorism (47% in 2020 to 56% in 2021 – previously defined as just “terrorism”), racial discrimination (43% in 2020 to 52% in 2021), and quality of education (49% in 2020 to 58% in 2021). Data security surged from 51% in 2020 to 64% in 2021 — an increase of 13 percentage points. Least important problems While 63% of respondents agreed infectious disease outbreaks were major problems, 44% said COVID-19 vaccine refusal was a “minor” problem or “not a problem at all.” Discrimination-related issues were more likely to be seen as “minor” or "not a problem at all" as well. These discriminations included: LGBTQ+ (53%), gender (52%), gender identity discrimination (52%), religion (52%), and racial discrimination (44%). Do Americans believe false news or disinformation is a problem in the U.S.? Eighty-seven percent of Americans, up from 84% last year, agreed that news or information that misrepresents reality or is false is a problem in the U.S. * Due to rounding, percentages may not always add up to 100%. YES 87% NO 5% DON’TKNOW /NOOPINION 8%
  • 10. FULL FINDINGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FIND INGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FULL FINDINGS IMPACT OF DISINFORMATION ON SOCIETY Disinformation is still a complex issue for Americans, but it’s clear that most respondents, regardless of their political affiliation, believe it has a negative impact on society. Seventy-five percent said that disinformation is a threat to democracy, 73% said it undermines the election process, and 63% said it infringes on human rights. Fewer than 6% disagreed with each of these statements. Seven-out-of-10 respondents also believed that disinformation increases the polarization of political parties.* One-quarter (25%) of respondents believed that concerns about disinformation are exaggerated while most (48%) did not. Disinformation also has an impact on the mental health for the majority of respondents. Over half (52%) said encountering disinformation makes them feel anxious or stressed. *Political polarization was deemed as a major problem by 52% of respondents (but did not make the top 15 list of issues). ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 9
  • 11. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 10 L D- S L Disinformation is a threat to our democracy. Disinformation increases the polarization of political parties. Concerns about disinformation are exaggerated. Disinformation undermines our election process. Disinformation infringes on human rights. Encountering disinformation makes me feel anxious orstressed. Agree 75% Agree 73% Don’t Know 8% Don’t Know 7% Disagree 6% Disagree 5% Neither 13% Neither 15% Agree 71% Disagree 48% Don’t Know 9% Don’t Know 7% Disagree 4% Agree 25% Neither 15% Neither 20% Agree 63% Don’t Know 8% Disagree 8% Neither 22% Agree 52% Don’t Know 6% Disagree 16% Neither 25%
  • 12. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 11 F F I F Impact of disinformation on the COVID-19 pandemic Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Americans believed that disinformation will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic; only 7% disagreed. Also, a similar percentage said much disinformation exists about the COVID-19 vaccination (73%), with only 6% disagreeing. Disinformation will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic. Much disinformation exists about the COVID-19 vaccination. Agree: 72% Neither Agree nor Disagree: 14% Disagree: 7% Don’t know: 6% Agree: 73% Neither Agree nor Disagree: 15% Disagree: 6% Don’t know: 6% ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 11
  • 13. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 12 FULL FINDINGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FIND INGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FULL FINDINGS MOST TRUSTWORTHY SOURCES FOR ACCURATE NEWS AND INFORMATION Americans placed “a lot” of trust in theirfamilies, friends, and like-minded people. Of the information sources that Americans said they trust “a lot,” the highest-ranking source was families (35%), followed by Dr. Anthony Fauci (29%), “people like me” (27%), and friends (22%). Politically, 22% have “a lot” of trust in President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, while 19% have “a lot” of trust in former President Donald Trump. Overall, respondents were more likely to have “some” trust rather than “a lot” of trust in each information source. The least-trusted sources of information that respondents said they did “not trust at all” included the Russian government (61%), the Chinese government (60%), former President Donald Trump (45%), Qanon (43%), and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (41%).
  • 14. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 13 Information Sources with the Highest Trust Scores Mainstream media sources were considered more trustworthy than most social media sites for providing accurate news or information. Social media platforms that many Americans said were “not at all” trustworthy included TikTok (38%), Snapchat (35%), Twitter (35%), Facebook (33%), and Instagram (28%). However, 51% said they had at least “some” trust in YouTube, which was the most trusted social media site. Differences Between Political Parties and Trust Political parties were the greatest predictor of differences among Americans and their level of trust in information sources. The largest gap was between the perceived trustworthiness of the current U.S. president and the former president. Only 12% of Republicans said they had at least “some trust” in President Biden to provide accurate news and information, compared to 81%of Democrats. Conversely, only 13% of Democrats had at least “some trust” in former President Trump, compared to 81% of Republicans. 51%
  • 15. Asexpected, sourcesconsidered more liberal were rated more trustworthybyDemocrats, and more conservative sources were rated higherbyRepublicans. Democratswere more likelythan Republicansto trust mainstream media sources, showcasing a wide gap between the two parties. Democratswere more likelyto trust MSNBC (+43 percentage points), The New York Times (+40 percentage points), and The Washington Post (+35 percentage points). Republicanswere more likely than Democratsto trust Fox News (+31 percentage points). On the otherhand, some publicationsreceived lowlevelsoftrust from eitherpolitical party, including Qanon and Breitbart. Overall, Democratswere also more likelythan Republicansto trust journalists(+37 percentage points). Regarding the media, one area ofagreement between Democratsand Republicansconcerned the trustworthinessoflocal newspapersand broadcast TV news. More than halfofboth partiessaid theyhad “some” trust in local newspapersand local broadcast news. These were the most trusted media sources, making local media important sourcesofinformation for aligning two political partieswith significant trust differences. In some areas, a newpresidential administration affected trust levels, depending on the political affiliation ofrespondents. Republicanstrusted the U.S. government significantlylessin 2021 with 29% having “some trust,” compared to 68% the previousyear. Conversely, trust that Democratshave in the U.S. government increased by18 percentage pointsto 61%. Both Republicansand Democratsexperienced slight declinesin trust in theirlocal government, 63% and 47%, respectively, in compared to 66% vs. 56% in 2020. Political affiliation also affected the level oftrust in businesssources. Coinciding with a newpresidential administration, Democratswere more likelyto trust CEOsand majorcompanies/corporationsthan in 2020. Forty-two percent had “some” trust in majorcompanies/corporations, compared to 24% the previousyear. Similarly, 33% ofDemocratshad some trust in CEOs, compared to 15% the previousyear. Regarding Republicans, theysawminimal shift in theirtrust ofthese two sources (majorcompanies: 36% in 2021 to 37% in 2020; CEOs: 28% in 2021 to 30% in 2020). Political affiliation also determined the level oftrust respondentshave in collegesand universities, with Democrats determining highereducation institutionswere more trustworthythan Republicansby32 percentage points. Added to 2021’s analysiswasthe level oftrust people have in theiremployer. Overall, 38% ofrespondentshad “some” trust in theiremployer with Republicansmore likelyto saythisthan Democrats(49% vs. 36%). ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 14
  • 16. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 15 The Impact of Political Affiliation on Trust
  • 17. FINDINGS FULL FIND INGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FULL FINDINGS SOURCES RESPONSIBILE FOR SPREADING DISINFORMATION* Politicians, Facebook, and the U.S. Government were considered most responsible for spreading disinformation again this year. Politicians (77%), Facebook (72%), and the U.S. government (67%) were the top three sources respondents charged as being at least “somewhat” responsible for spreading disinformation to the public. Political party lines divided the list of culpable sources. Seventy-four percent of Democrats said Republican senators and representatives were at least “somewhat” responsible for spreading disinformation, while 80% of Republicans said the same of Democratic senators and representatives. However, nearly half the respondents said their own party’s members of Congress are at least “somewhat” responsible for spreading disinformation (44% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans). *Disinformation is defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information.” ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 16
  • 18. Only 17% of Republicans said former President Trump was “very responsible” for spreading disinformation, compared to 68% of Democrats. On the other hand, 66% of Republicans said President Joe Biden was “very responsible” for spreading disinformation, compared to 20% of Democrats. Republicans were also more likely than Democrats to say that journalists were “very responsible” for spreading disinformation (51% vs. 23%, respectively). ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 17 CNN
  • 19. Among the business sources listed, marketers and advertisers (61%), public relations professionals (58%), and companies/ corporations (57%) were considered culpable for spreading disinformation. Along with Facebook (72%), the other two social platforms deemed at least “somewhat” responsible for spreading disinformation by at least half of the respondents were Twitter (60%) and YouTube (53%). In the media, journalists (64%), Fox News (TV) (61%), and CNN (57%) were all reported by at least half of the respondents to be at least “somewhat responsible” for spreading disinformation. Least responsible forspreading disinformation Personal networks are the least responsible for spreading disinformation. Personal connections and networks were identified as being some of the least responsible sources for spreading disinformation. In terms of the networks that are “very responsible” for spreading disinformation, only 12% of respondents said their family, 11% said friends, and 9% blamed their employer. Similarly, Americans said “people like me” (14%, up from 10% last year) and “people NOT like me” (17%, up from 10% in 2020) are “very responsible” for spreading disinformation. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 18
  • 20. FULL FINDINGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FIND INGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FULL FINDINGS RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMBATTING DISINFORMATION Americans said President Biden should be most responsible forcombatting disinformation. More than half of respondents pointed to 16 groups and individuals they consider to be “very responsible” for combatting disinformation. President Biden (67%) was deemed most often to be the source is “very responsible” for combatting disinformation, followed by the U.S. government (66%), Congress (63%), federal agencies (60%), and cable news (60%). Of the 34 sources available for respondents to evaluate, 33 were identified as being “very responsible” for combatting disinformation by at least 25% of respondents. “My employer” was named by only 24% of respondents to be “very responsible” for combatting disinformation. Differences among political demographics were not significant regarding this responsibility. *Political polarization was deemed as a major problem by 52% of respondents (but did not make the aforementioned top 15 list of issues). ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 19
  • 21. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 20 L D- S L HOW WELL SOURCES ARE COMBATTING DISINFORMATION IN THE MEDIA “People like me,” federal agencies, and local broadcast news did the best job at trying to combat disinformation. For the third year in a row, more than half of Americans said, “people like me” (58%, up from 51% in 2020) are doing at least “somewhat well” in combatting disinformation. Local broadcast news (51%), local newspapers (48%) and fact-checking websites such as Snopes and PolitiFact (47%) were credited with helping as well.
  • 22. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 21 F I F More than half of the respondents said the following were doing “not too well” or “not at all well” in combatting disinformation that appears in the media: social media sites (56%), celebrities (56%), Congress (56%), marketers and advertisers (52%), and political activist groups (52%). Concerning businesses, 49% said CEOs were doing “not too well”; 30% said the same about their employer. Political affiliation played a role as Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say President Joe Biden was doing at least “somewhat well” in combatting disinformation (65% vs. 19%, respectively). On the other hand, 66% of Republicans thought former President Trump was doing at least “somewhat well” compared to only 23% of Democrats who gave Trump a high score.
  • 23. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 22 FINDINGS FULL FIND INGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FINDINGS FULL FULL FINDINGS EXPOSURE TO DISINFORMATION, NEWS, AND MEDIA Frequency of disinformation At least one-third of Americans (38%) said they come across false news or information almost every day, and over two-thirds (69%) reported contact with it at least once a week. Confidence in ability to recognize disinformation Overall, Americans continued to be confident in their ability to recognize news or information that mispresents reality or is false. Again, this year, four-in-five Americans said they are confident in their ability; 29% are “very confident,” and 49% are “somewhat confident.” Twelve percent said they are “not very confident,” while only 2% said they are “not at all confident.” These are similar findings to the past two years. * Due to rounding, percentages may not always appear to add up to 100%. Every day or almost every day: 38% At least once a week: 31% At least once a month: 13% Don’t know/ No opinion: 10% Rarely or never: 8%
  • 24. Verifying sources The number of Americans who go to other websites to check whether the information they are reading is true and accurate continues to fall. In 2021, 38% said they “often” or “always” check, a drop from 47% in 2019. Thirty-seven percent “sometimes” go to other sources, while 19% “rarely” or “never” check alternative sources. Primary source of news Television (37%), news websites (16%), and social media (14%) continue to be the top three sources where respondents primarily get their news. How often, if ever, do you go to other websites or media sources to check whether the news or information you are reading is true and accurate? Sometimes: 37% Television: 37% News Sites: 16% Newspapers/ Magazines: 4% Radio: 3% Podcasts: 3% Social Media: 14% Friends & Family: 6% Phone NewsAlerts: 6% Other: 5% Often: 27% Rarely: 12% Always: 11% Don’t Know: 6% Never: 7% * Due to rounding, percentages may not always appear to add up to 100%. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 23
  • 25. Sharing news on social media Fewer respondents shared news or public information with others on their social networks. Over half (52%) of Americans said they rarely or never share news on social media compared to 47% in 2020. Only 12% said they share news and public information every day or almost every day on their social channels. Those who said they rarely or never share information on their social networks said it was primarily because it’s no one’s business what news they consume (34%). Other reasons noted included that they don’t use social networks very often (32%), they don’t want to start an argument with friends/followers (31%), and they are unsure of the accuracy (27%). Reasons why respondents “rarely or never” share news on social media This chart adds up to more than 100% because respondents could select one or more options. Every day or almost every day: 12% Don’t know 5% At least once a week: 18% Rarely or never: 52% Atleastoncea m onth: 12% * Due to rounding, percentages may not always appear to add up to 100%. Unsure of accuracy: 27% It’s no one’s business what news or information I consume: 34% I don’t use social networks very often: 32% Don’t want to start an argument with friends or followers: 31% ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 24
  • 26. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 25 I avoid watching, reading, or listening to the news because of the amount of disinformation. I’m more likely to read sources outside of the U.S. because of the amount of disinformation in the U.S. media. C C Agree: 40% Agree: 30% Neither: 25% Neither: 26% Disagree: 29% Disagree: 34% Don’t Know: 5% Don’t Know: 9% Impact of Disinformation on News Consumption Disinformation also has an impact on behaviors of Americans and how they consume news. Four-out-of-ten said they avoid watching or listening to the news because of the amount of disinformation. Additionally, 30% said they are more likely to read sources outside the U.S. because of the amount of disinformation in the U.S. Respondents were asked the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the following statements*: * Due to rounding, percentages may not always appear to add up to 100%. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 25
  • 27. CONCLUSION CONCL CONCLUSION CONCL CONCLUSION Disinformation continues to be a significant societal problem, yet most information sources do an inadequate job at combatting it, according to most Americans. People are more likely to trust sources that are closest to them, such as friends and family. Trust in sources is also strongly correlated with who is doing well at combatting disinformation. Disinformation has significant consequences on society. People believe disinformation will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and affect COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Americans also noted disinformation has an impact on the fundamentals of society, threatening democracy, election processes, and human rights. While political party affiliation continues to highlight the gap between what and who Republicans and Democrats perceive as trustworthy sources, the new presidential administration has shifted trust in institutions. For some key sources, trust among Democrats increased, especially in government and business, while Republicans saw a decrease. The gulf is also widening between political parties and how well they trust mainstream information sources. Overall, Democrats trusted journalists significantly more than Republicans. Where the two parties come together is with local news, even though the pool and quality of newspapers has shrunk significantly over the past 15 years, according to a 2020 report from Dr. Penelope Muse Abernathy. At least 1,800 communities that had a local news outlet in 2004 are without one in 2020, leaving a news desert. * Due to rounding, percentages may not always appear to add up to 100%. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 26
  • 28. While the past couple of years have seen many organizations paying more attention in the workplace to social issues, mental health, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, few focus on media literacy to help people better combat disinformation. Additionally, companies can invest in local news, which saw little differentiation of trustworthiness based on political lines, one of the few sources that can make that claim. This may help alleviate political polarization that respondents said disinformation helps to increase. Overall, respondents believe disinformation is a significant issue and all sources noted in this report were responsible for helping to combat it, even friends and family. With more sophisticated technologies — the impact of disinformation will continue to be felt around the world. Institutions and individuals must actively work to combat it to help stop its spread. Methodology: This poll was conducted between November 10-14, 2021, by Morning Consult among a national sample of 2,200 adults. The interviews were conducted online, and the data was weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, educational attainment, gender, race, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 27
  • 29. About the Institute forPublic Relations Founded in 1956, the Institute for Public Relations is an independent, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the science beneath the art of public relations™. IPR creates, curates, and promotes research and initiatives that empower professionals with actionable insights and intelligence they can put to immediate use. IPR predicts and analyzes global factors transforming the profession and amplifies and engages the professional globally through thought leadership and programming. All research is available free at www.instituteforpr.org and provides the basis for IPR’s professional conferences and events. Forthe full report and charts, please visit the IPR website at https://instituteforpr.org/2020-disinformation-report/. If you are an academic researcher who would like access to the data, please contact Tina McCorkindale at tina@instituteforpr.org. Primary Researchers Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR, Institute for Public Relations Anetra Henry, Institute for Public Relations Graphic Design Britt Buzan, Cartero Creative Communication and Web Publishing Cindy Duong, Institute for Public Relations Erica Hall, Institute for Public Relations Sarah Jackson, Institute for Public Relations Brittany Higginbotham, Institute for Public Relations Soumya Kona, Institute for Public Relations Olivia Kresic, Institute for Public Relations ©2022, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS 28