Almost half of Americans believe that fact-checkers are biased, and the majority of these skeptics are Republican. But fact-checkers are still much more highly trusted than traditional media, a new study from Pew Research Center shows.
A new report by Mason Walker and Jeffrey Gottfried reveals that American’s’ opinions of fact-checkers are highly polarized along partisan lines. The study, which looks at how adults in the United States feel about news and information in the digital age, found that 70% of Republicans believe fact-checkers tend to favor one side, while only 29% of Democrats say the same.
Overall, half of American adults believe that fact-checkers are unbiased. This is much higher than the 26% of Americans who believe the same about traditional news organizations.
“The issue of made-up news and information has been a challenge to Americans,” Jeffrey Gottfried, a senior researcher at Pew Research Center, told the IFCN. “In today’s fast-paced environment, we wanted to look into the extent to which they experience misinformation.”
Gottfried explained that the partisan divide seen in these results can be traced back to 2017. “In 2016, the difference was much smaller,” he said. “2017 was when this huge split happened.”
Pew has been asking American adults whether “the media favor(s) one side” for three decades, and the last three years have yielded the most partisan results in history. The only other exception was 2007, at the end of President George W. Bush’s second term in office.
Pew’s study also asked Americans to what extent they trust their own ability to verify news. The results make clear that, although half of Americans don’t trust fact-checkers to verify their news, they’re not always confident in their own abilities, either.
Only three in 10 Americans are “very confident” in their ability to fact-check the news, while a quarter said they weren’t confident at all.
“What we saw is that a large majority (of U.S. adults) are saying that they’re checking the facts themselves in response to the (misinformation crisis),” Gottfried said. But while “Most Americans are saying they’ve checked the facts of news stories, they have a mixed assessment of their own ability to be able to (the fact-checking work) themselves.”
Clarification: A previous version of this article said that “exactly half” of Americans believe fact checkers are unbiased. Due to the nature of polling, “exactly” isn’t an appropriate way to describe “half.”