With the recent spike in the spread of fake news articles and highly misleading/downright fallacious memes, I thought it necessary to poll how people respond.

Using the same approach as last time, I asked “When you see a political meme or article shared online, how likely are you to check if the information is correct?”

Here’s a graph showing responses:

meme-poll

The percentage of people that were likely is decently high at 42.1%. However, the combined response rate of only “Somewhat likely” (47.4%) and not likely (10.5%) is worrisome. There were no respondents that said they were very likely to look into information they see on various articles and memes.

The spread of false information is a danger to democracy. It decreases information literacy, and increases polarization. It’s incredibly easy to see a politically charged meme or article and take it as truth because it aligns with one’s own pre-conceived views. This is a major mode that false information is spread, and even journalists are guilty of spreading said information because it aligns with their bias.

Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein recently held a lecture regarding this topic.

“Identifying truth specifically with factual accuracy, he outlined three mechanisms by which false rumors gain traction in that marketplace and become widely held beliefs,” Harvard Law Today said.

“The first of these mechanisms he termed Biased Assimilation. Belief formation is a motivated process, said Sunstein, and when an individual is presented with a statement of unknown accuracy, he or she will respond to it with preconceived notions of what is correct. If the statement is in agreement with the individual’s bias, the individual finds validation and holds the belief even more strongly. If the statement disagrees with what he or she already believes to be true, studies have shown that generally the person will not change opinions, but rather will still find validation in his or her own belief, rejecting the statement as questionable for one rationalization or another.”

“He cited studies in which individuals, deliberating on a given political subject with like-minded groups, tended to shift toward greater extremism. Again, in these experiments the social interaction overrode the individual’s process of objective consideration.”

To put this as objectively as possible, it’s very important to challenge one’s views. No one is 100% Democrat. No one is 100% Republican. There are so many variables, viewpoints, and experiences for any given topic to be 100% in favor of one view.

With that, the next poll we’ll analyze will be about how important respondents think its is to understand and analyze other viewpoints.

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