Poll Shows Most Americans Can't Tell Fact From Opinion

Brittany M. Hughes | June 19, 2018
Font Size

The vast majority of Americans can’t tell fact from opinion.

Literally.

Pew Research recently ran an experiment in which they presented about 5,000 American adults with five factual statements (whether true or untrue) and five opinions. Factual statements included things like “Spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. federal budget,” while opinion statements included claims such as “Abortion should be legal in most cases.” The goal was to see how many people could correctly distinguish between an objective statement based on information and a subjective one based on a point of view.

When presented with the five factual statements, Pew reports only 26% of American adults correctly identified all five as facts. On the other hand, 28% -- about one in four – got two or less right.

When presented with five opinion statements, only 35% of respondents pegged them all as subjective claims. A full 22 percent got two or fewer correct.

All in all, it seems the vast majority of Americans struggled with correctly separating fact from opinion. Even among the most politically engaged (those who immerse themselves in political news), only 26 percent correctly identified all five factual statements. Among the digitally savvy, only 44 percent got them all right.

Funnily enough, respondents’ education levels didn’t seem to have much of an impact.

However, Pew did find that people with a high distrust of the national news media have a tougher time identifying fact from opinion.

Then again, if the media spent less time presenting their opinions masqueraded as facts, perhaps people would have less of a struggle.

donate
mrc merch