Canadians can’t agree on what ‘fake news’ really is: Ipsos poll

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U.S. President Donald Trump‘s relentless attacks on the media have made “fake news” a household term, but many Canadians still don’t know as much as they think they do about the concept, a new Ipsos poll shows.

“The funny thing about fake news is we can’t even agree on what’s fake,” said Sean Simpson, vice president, public affairs, for Ipsos.

He says Trump’s America has become the “focal point for fake news,” although poll data shows people are divided over what it means.

Trump has used the term to attack unfavourable news stories and errors by reporters, whom he has described as the “enemy of the people.” However, he has also touted several false narratives, such as the claim that former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

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The Ipos poll, conducted as part of a Global Advisor survey involving 27 countries, found that respondents were split over the meaning of the word in Year 2 of Trump’s war on the media.

Nearly six in 10 Canadians (58 per cent) and Americans (62 per cent) defined “fake news” as a story in which the facts were wrong. However, 46 per cent also applied the term to politicians and news reports that only present one side of an argument. Another 46 per cent of Canadians and 51 per cent of Americans said it was a word used by politicians to discredit media reports they disagree with.

Overall, American respondents were more confused about the meaning of the term than Canadians, Simpson said.

The poll also shows that Canadians trust themselves more than others when it comes to determining what is real and what is fake, although many of them have also been fooled by false stories.

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The poll found that 64 per cent of Canadians were confident in their own ability to distinguish real news from made-up stories. However, only four in 10 Canadians were confident that the average person could tell the difference between real and fake news.

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Nearly half of respondents (48 per cent) also admitted to believing a news story they later learned was fake, the data shows.

“It’s that classic adage that, ‘I’m not the problem, it’s everybody else,'” said Sean Simpson, vice president, public affairs for Ipsos. “In fact, we know that’s not the case.”

He pointed out that a majority of Canadians failed an Ipsos quiz last year, which asked respondents to determine whether stories were real or fake.

READ MORE: Majority of Canadians can't spot fake news - Ipsos poll

“Maybe a little less finger-pointing to others and a little introspection is warranted,” Simpson said.

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The poll also shows a majority of Canadians (59 per cent) and Americans (77 per cent) believe the average person lives in a “bubble” of similar viewpoints and biases on the internet. However, only three in 10 respondents from each country thought they were living in their own internet bubbles.

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Simpson says these “bubbles” are formed by personal biases, which are a lot easier to spot in others than in yourself.

“You don’t realize you have them,” he said. “You don’t realize that you’re dismissing news you don’t agree with, and seeking out news that you do agree with.”

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Overall, less than half of Canadian respondents said they have seen fake news stories. That was below the worldwide average of 60 per cent, and below the U.S. rate of 61 per cent. Germans were at the bottom of the list with 30 per cent saying they’ve seen fake news stories, while Argentinians were at the top (82 per cent).

The Ipsos poll showed a majority of respondents (57 per cent) also believe the average person trusts politicians less to tell the truth than they did 30 years ago. American respondents were more skeptical, with 69 per cent agreeing that the average person trusts politicians less now than in the past.

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Ipsos says the results show an overall belief that lying in politics and the media is more prevalent today.

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between June 22 and July 6, 2018, with a sample of 19,243 interviews conducted in 27 countries, including more than 1,000 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.

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