Real or fake news: Who knows?

Date Posted: May 29, 2019 Last Modified: May 29, 2019
Real or fake news: Who knows? Photo: Raw Pixel, Pixabay

After the 2016 US Presidential elections fake news has become one of the most discussed issues. This study analyses how often college students are able to discern real from fake news, by applying concepts of news credibility, research, and using real and fake news stories published online. The study surveyed 394 college students on their ability to tell real from fake news, news consumption and their news research behaviour. Additionally, the results were compared to the respondents' personal characteristics. 

  • The study found that when given the set of news stories published previously online on an average a little more than half cough guess correctly which story was real or fake. No respondent could answer all correctly.
  • The study found that exposure to more information on an average increased respondents' score positively. however, the quality of a story or errors did not correlate to a respondents' ability to tell whether the story was fake or real.
  • Students' education or demographics did not have a strong correlation to the respondents' overall scores.
  • Although a weak correlation, political affiliation did influence the ability to discern fake from the truth. The study found individuals with more conservative ideologies more able to accurately tell real from fake news.
  • Most respondents' consumed news often with most stating they did so several times a day (48.2%) or at least once a day (28.7%). However, no correlation was found between respondents' score and their news consumption.
  • Online news sources ranked the highest, followed by electronic and print news sources. Media channel preferences did not have any influence on respondents' abilities.
  • A majority of respondents (97%) said they don't verify the veracity of news stories. Of the remaining respondents who do verify their news stories, the majority used a search engine like Google instead of asking another person or directly visiting a specific website.