Image: Gallup/Knight Foundation

Fake news! It’s the slogan du jour for many. But just how widespread is the belief that the mainstream media can’t be trusted, and how does that compare with attitudes toward the content found elsewhere online in the US?

Working with the US-based Knight Foundation, which provides financial support and investment to the arts and journalism, Gallup polled a sample of 1,440 American adults to find out how widespread mistrust of news outlets has become.

The findings highlight a trust gap, with respondents saying 62% of the news they see on television, read in newspapers, and hear on the radio is biased. However, they are even more suspicious of the news they see on social media, estimating 80% of that is biased.

Accuracy is also an issue, with respondents telling Gallup they believe 44% of news reporting is inaccurate, and 64% of news on social media is inaccurate.

Although some organizations are taking steps to introduce tools that allow the public to quickly and easily distinguish between reliable and unreliable news sources, more needs to be done. The Knight Foundation says “more than three-quarters of US adults (76%) say major internet companies have an obligation to identify misinformation that appears on their platforms”.

With 60% of respondents able to accurately name a fact-checking website (Snopes.com was mentioned by 32%, while 21% could name PolitiFact.com) a sizeable minority weren’t able to cite any independent sources they could use to verify what they read. Of those who said they try to verify information when uncertain about something they’ve seen or read, 83% say they turn to the news sources they use most.

There’s a correlation between the age of respondents and the likelihood of their conducting their own web searches to check facts:

- 18-34 — 91%

- 35-54 — 81%

- 55+ — 65%

Gallup also found that just 48% of Republicans say they use fact-checking websites when they encounter information they suspect is false, compared with 72% of both independents and Democrats.