Who reads fact-checking and why? Here’s what one outlet found out

April 18, 2018
Category: Fact-Checking

A British fact-checking organization recently heard from more than 2,000 people about how and why they read fact checks.

On Tuesday, Full Fact published its first large-scale audience research survey, based on a fall 2017 survey of self-selected participants that contained 24 questions, supplemented with data from Google Analytics and polls. While not representative, the findings are part of a larger trend among fact-checkers to conduct in-house audience analyses.

Some of the report feels intuitive and sort of commonplace, like something you might read in a monthly analytics report. Full Fact gets about 6.6 million pageviews annually and has 18,000 newsletter subscribers. Search is a major driver of traffic (57 percent), the majority of the site’s users are new (73 percent) and readers skew young and male.

But the good stuff had to do with the political leanings of Full Fact’s audience — and why they read fact checks in the first place. Many want to check their own preconceptions.

“There was evidence of individuals using Full Fact to check their own beliefs (selected by 41% of respondents) and to a lesser extent to “prove a point” (selected by 27% of respondents),” Research and Impact Manager Amy Sippitt said in an email. “Interviewees talked about valuing Full Fact because it allows them to cross-reference what they believe to be true, or to challenge their own political views.”

A majority of respondents (78 percent) said that Full Fact’s greatest value lies in fact-checking statements from politicians. When asked about issues that worried them most, 84 percent said they were concerned about false or misleading information from political campaigns, followed by newspapers (81 percent), members of Parliament (79 percent) and social media (78 percent).

At the same time, Full Fact found that most survey respondents think the outlet is unbiased (73 percent), while only 2 percent think it is biased. Broken up by party, that good news continues: 72 percent of Conservative supporters and 74 percent of Labour supporters chose unbiased, while 3 percent of Conservative supporters and 2 percent of Labour supporters chose biased.

However, while many survey respondents were well-educated and most politically active — the majority had voted within the past 12 months — they were more likely to lean toward the Labour Party. Overall, there seemed to be less name recognition among Conservative Party supporters. Only about 3 percent of the British public (around 2 million people) has heard of Full Fact at all, according to two polls of YouGov’s internet panel.

To investigate those disparities, as well as build upon other findings in its report, Full Fact will focus on comparing audiences with other fact-checkers, exploring who the organization isn’t reaching well enough and how their fact checks affect the outlooks of existing readers.

“This research is the first step in developing a greater understanding of our audience’s interest in our work,” the report reads, “and we hope will help other fact-checkers with their own audience research so that we can build up a better picture of fact-checking worldwide that reflects the diversity of fact-checking organizations globally.”

Read Full Fact’s entire report here.