A post-truth era? Fake news and the general election

Laura Byrne

A new survey has revealed a shocking 52% of British adults are struggling to tell the difference between real and fake news in the run up to the General Election.

As campaigns from all parties ramp up ahead of 8th June, a quarter of those surveyed (25%) have seen fake news about the UK general election, rising to 43% among 18-24s. Despite scale of the fake news issue, only 6% have actually reported it to an authority.

Most people point towards social media companies as a potentially untrustworthy source of information – half (51%) do not trust general election coverage on social media.

Of the media outlets tested in the research, the BBC is the most trusted source for news about the General Election – however, less than half the population trust it at 45%. Only a quarter (27%) say they trust UK newspapers.

The ICM survey also found:

  • A majority of the public believe that more action should be taken to deal with fake news about the election. Nearly one in three (28%) believe social media companies need to do more to deal with fake news, while around one in five say the same about UK newspapers (19%) and the BBC (18%).
  • One in five (21%) have cross-checked a news article about the general election to see if it was fake news, rising to 31% among savvy 18-24 year olds.

There’s also a clear generational divide on fake news. Older people are significantly more likely to find it difficult to identify, with more than three in five over 65s (63%) saying they find it difficult to tell fake news from real news about the general election compared to around half in younger age groups. Younger age groups are also more confident about identifying fake news and are significantly more likely to have reported fake news.

However, 14% say it’s not the responsibility of organisations to deal with fake news about the election, suggesting that individuals should be able to judge if something is fake news or not.

ICM interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,038 GB adults aged 18+. Fieldwork was conducted online between 5 May and 7 May 2017.