Americans widely distrust social media sites as a source for political and election news, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center.
Data for the Pew report was compiled as part of the nonpartisan think tank’s Election News Pathways project, an ongoing initiative that seeks to understand how Americans are getting their news in the months leading up to the 2020 election. Pew’s analysis found that, despite the widespread popularity of these platforms and Americans’ familiarity with them (94 percent of respondents said they’ve “heard of” Facebook, for example), Americans overwhelmingly question the credibility of these sites when it comes to providing trustworthy political news.
Nearly six-in-ten Americans (59 percent) said they distrust Facebook as a source for political and election news. Nearly half (48 percent) distrust Twitter, 42 percent distrust Instagram, 36 percent distrust YouTube, 24 percent distrust Reddit and 18 percent distrust LinkedIn.
Of the half-dozen social media sites analyzed in the study, none registered more trust among Americans than distrust. However, YouTube, LinkedIn and Reddit registered mostly indifference when it comes to political/election content (neither trust or distrust).
|Few Americans trust social media as a place to get political and election news.|
In a rare display of bipartisanship, Americans appear to distrust social media sites for political and election news despite political affiliation, although conservative distrust does typically run slightly higher. For example, 59 percent of Democrats said they distrust Facebook, as did 62 percent of Republicans; 46 percent of Democrats distrust Twitter, compared to 51 percent of Republicans; 41 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans distrust Instagram; 24 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of Republicans distrust Reddit, and 16 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Republicans distrust LinkedIn.
Facebook remains the most popular platform used by a quarter (25 percent) of those polled for political and election news. By comparison, this means the social media site is more popular than NPR (20 percent), The New York Times (20 percent), The Washington Post (17 percent) and The Wall Street Journal (13 percent), though less widely used than Fox News, CNN or the three major commercial TV news outlets (ABC, CBS and NBC).
Overall, only 18 percent of U.S. adults said social media was the “most common” means by which they access political news. Even among those who do, only slightly more than half (56 percent) said they trust the information they get there.
Pew’s report was based on a survey of 12,043 respondents drawn from Pew's American Trends Panel, a nationally representative list of randomly selected U.S. adults. Surveys were conducted between Oct. and Nov.