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Are Americans Good at Identifying “Fake News”?

By Kevin Hellyer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Are you one of the majority of Americans who tout their ability to spot false headlines and fake news? Think again. A recent survey of more than 8,200 people published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that three in four Americans say they can easily spot bogus news on Facebook. The reality is, however, that the same people who are the most likely to fall for online lies are also the most likely to spread them.

In the survey, 8,285 Americans were asked to evaluate the accuracy of a series of Facebook headlines, and then rate their own ability to distinguish between fake news content and factual content. Worryingly, around 90% of the respondents felt that they were better than average at spotting fake news. The study data was collected during and after the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

Some truths about fake news:

  • Male respondents in the study displayed more overconfidence than women.

  • The survey also found that Republicans are more overconfident, and more gullible, than Democrats – “especially if (the information) conforms to their worldview.”

  • "We show that overconfident individuals are more likely to visit untrustworthy websites,” the researchers said.

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