POLITICS

New Poll Suggests 'Fake News' Has Almost No Meaning Anymore

It's pretty much down to "news you don't like." And Russia.

Voters who supported President Donald Trump in last year’s election think most mainstream media reporting counts as fake news, according to a new poll.

Voters who backed Hillary Clinton say the term applies to most Trump administration statements. And a majority of Americans believe both Trump and the media dish out fake news on more than rare occasions.

When the term “fake news” burst into the political discourse last fall, it referred mostly to unscrupulous websites adopting the look of legitimate news outlets to spread blatantly untrue stories. It’s since been co-opted as a cudgel against pretty much any news source or article seen as inconvenient.

Trump, who has taken heat for making demonstrably false statements as president, has become an enthusiastic user of the term, bestowing the designation “fake” or “fake news” on targets that include CNN, the media as a whole, “any negative polls,” and the entire nation of Russia.

Much of the public, too, has quickly come to see the utility of the term. Seventy-three percent of Americans say they’ve heard of fake news, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds, and 43 percent have personally described something as fake news.

Trump supporters, initially seen as the primary targets of fake news, are now the most likely to brandish the term against others. Sixty-four percent of Trump supporters say they’ve described something as fake news, compared with 43 percent of Clinton supporters and 32 percent of those who didn’t vote in last year’s election.

Sixty percent of Americans say that Trump and his advisers say things that could be described as fake news at least sometimes, with 35 percent saying they say such things most of the time. Just 25 percent think the White House rarely or never traffics in fake news.

Mainstream news outlets fare only slightly better, with 62 percent saying the mainstream media report fake news at least sometimes, although just 24 percent think they do most of the time. Only 27 percent believe the mainstream media rarely or never reports fake news.

A similar percentage, 65 percent, think liberal media outlets or social media accounts report fake news at least sometimes, while 62 percent say the same of conservative media outlets or social media accounts.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people are most likely to label sources as full of fake news when they’re in ideological opposition to their own beliefs. Seventy percent of Clinton voters, but just 4 percent of Trump voters, say that Trump’s administration delivers fake news most of the time. Fifty-six percent of Trump voters, but just 6 percent of Clinton voters, think that most of what the mainstream media reports is fake.

Partisans are also inclined to think that the people who disagree with them are more likely to be susceptible to fake news. By a 51-point margin ― 56 percent to 5 percent ― Clinton voters say that conservatives are more likely than liberals to believe fake news. By a 62-point margin ― 65 percent to 3 percent ― Trump voters say that liberals are more likely to do so.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Feb. 10 to Feb. 13 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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