The 2016 U.S. election cycle saw the proliferation of the term “fake news,” and a new Ipsos poll suggests Canadians get a failing grade when it comes to spotting a false news story.
An Ipsos poll, conducted on behalf of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), found that while eight in ten Canadians feel confident that they can tell the difference between accurate and fake news, far fewer could deliver when put to the test.
Ipsos showed English-speaking Canadians six images of news website front pages, and asked respondents to identify which of the six showed fake news stories.
Sixty-three per cent of Canadians failed the quiz by only getting 0-3 right answers out of a possible six, and just 37 per cent passed the quiz.
In one example, just over half of respondents correctly identified a story about U.S. President Donald Trump issuing a ban on childhood vaccinations was fake.
During the 2016 U.S. election, several hoax websites or hyperpartisan blogs took advantage of the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton by creating hyperbolic articles, often aimed at the beliefs of Trump supporters, to quickly generate money from Google’s AdSense advertising program.
Several reports showed how the best-performing fake election stories outperformed stories by trusted major news outlets. An analysis by Buzzfeed showed how during the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites generated 8,711,000 interactions on Facebook.
The fallout from the perceived epidemic of fake news served as a wake-up for companies like Facebook and Google, which announced measures to combat fraudulent articles.
Young people and those without university degrees are particularly susceptible to false news stories, according to the Ipsos poll.
VIDEO GALLERY: The rise of “fake news”
The data showed that a majority of Canadians (65 per cent) have, at some point, believed a news story that they subsequently discovered was false. Canadians between the ages of 18-34 and those without a university degree are more likely to have believed a fake news story.
“Credibility and trustworthiness of the news is a big issue, a volatile issue, a potentially dangerous issue — and Canadians are going to want some help in sorting this out,” Bricker said.
The data also showed the distrust in news media outlets, and online news sources in particular, was reflected in the fact that, despite four of the six stories being authentic, 42 per cent to 57 per cent of Canadians believed they were fake.
The Ipsos poll was conducted between May 5- 8, 2017 using a sample of 1,001 Canadians from Ipsos’s online panel. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.