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Fake news fools most of the people most of the time

December 13, 2016 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

American adults are fooled by fake news headlines approximately 75% of the time. Those likely to turn to Facebook for news are more likely to think fake news headlines are correct than those using other platforms according to a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for BuzzFeed News. Consumers find it difficult to filter out fake news headlines without the necessary background filled-in, particularly in social media channels. Interestingly, consumers are even likely to believe fake news headlines that don’t necessarily fit with their ideological beliefs.

Almost one-third of respondents recalled at least one of a selection of fake news headlines from the election. In comparison, 57% of respondents recalled at least one of the real news headlines tested in the survey. Interestingly, consumers who identified themselves as Republican are more likely to think fake election news stories are very or somewhat accurate. Eight in 10 Republicans rated fake news headlines as accurate (among those they recognized), compared seven in 10 Democrats.

The fake news headline recalled by the largest number of respondents, 22%, is the story from the website the Denver Guardian, “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide.” The highest awareness for a true news headline was at 34% of respondents for recalling Trump “absolutely” requiring Muslims to register.

One of the highest recalled true news headlines was the CBS News post-election story about Donald Trump stating he will not accept a presidential salary, “Donald Trump on Refusing Presidential Salary: ‘I’m Not Taking It.’” More than half of respondents (57%) recalled seeing this headline. Another news headline with a 90% accuracy rating, among the 157 respondents who recognized it, was the New York Times op-ed “I Ran the CIA. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton.”

Respondents rated the fake news story “FBI Director Comey Just Put a Trump Sign on His Front Lawn,” with the highest overall accuracy rating. Among the 186 people who recalled seeing it, 81% said it was very or somewhat accurate.

News headlines tested:

  1. FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide (Fake, 22% recall)
  2. Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement (Fake, 19% recall)
  3. Donald Trump Protester Speaks Out: “I Was Paid $3,500 to Protest Trump’s Rally” (Fake, 19% recall)
  4. Donald Trump Sent His Own Plane to Transport 200 Stranded Marines (Fake, 14% recall)
  5. FBI Director Comey Just Put a Trump Sign on His Front Lawn (Fake, 10% recall)
  6. Donald Trump on Refusing Presidential Salary: “I’m Not Taking It” (True, 57% recall)
  7. Donald Trump Says He’d “Absolutely” Require Muslims to Register (True, 34% recall)
  8. Trump: “I Will Protect Our LGBTQ Citizens” (True, 27% recall)
  9. Barbara Bush: “I Don’t Know How Women Can Vote” for Trump (True, 25% recall)
  10. Melania Trump’s Girl-on-Girl Photos from Racy Shoot Revealed (True, 23% recall)
  11. I Ran the CIA. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton (True, 11% recall)


Consumers frequently see fake news in their social media feeds according to another survey on fake news conducted by Morning Consult, a media and technology. They found that amost one-third of respondents (31%) reported seeing a fake news story online more than once a day. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they started to read a story online only to realize it was fake.
morning-consultIn terms of social platform usage, participants of the Ipsos survey cited Facebook as the most popular with just less than half (47%) visiting Facebook multiple times per day and another 15% report visiting once a day. YouTube was the second most popular social platform. Twenty percent stated they visit YouTube multiple times per day and 11% visit once a day. The fact that fake news headlines are often remembered and said to be accurate by a strong number of consumers points to the fact that consumers have a difficult time discerning between fact and fictional news on social media.

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