In a presidential election year that has thrown the country's divisions into stark relief, Americans can agree on this: Misinformation about government and politics is a major problem.
A new survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Opinion Research and USAFacts finds that while voters say it’s pretty easy to find accurate information about voting, they have a harder time knowing whether there's any factual basis for the information they're getting from and about the candidates.
“The misinformation, it's just blossomed to the point where it's unmanageable," said nurse Liana Price, 34, of Tampa Bay, Florida, who supports Democrat Joe Biden in the contest against President Donald Trump and worries misinformation about the election could sway voters. “You try to explain and provide facts and actual research, but people don't believe it.”
Among the poll's findings: More than 8 in 10 rated the spread of misinformation about government a “major problem."
The deluge in political misinformation and conspiracy theories has fueled distrust in institutions and threatens to undermine confidence in elections, democracy and the nation itself, according to Cindy Otis, a former CIA officer and now vice president of analysis at Alethea Group, a company that helps combat disinformation.
“We are living today in the biggest period of false information in history, and we Americans are largely doing it to ourselves," Otis said last week during a hearing focused on election-related misinformation. “Americans are losing trust in what they read and see online. We are desperate for information, but certain groups feel they cannot trust the traditional institutions upon which they used to rely.”
The poll found the candidates and their campaigns are themselves seen as not credible by many Americans, with less than a third of Americans saying campaign messages from either Biden or Trump are often or always based on facts.
Roughly half of respondents said Trump's campaign messages are rarely or never based in fact, while about 4 in 10 respondents say that of Biden's campaign.