A growing share of Americans are paying close attention to news about the election, but many are also concerned about the media reporting inaccurate or incomplete information. And that includes information reported by their own most-used news sources, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Two-thirds of U.S. adults say they’ve seen the news sources they turn to most often present factual information that favors one side of an issue in coverage of the 2020 election, according to the survey, conducted Oct. 6 to 12 among 10,059 Americans – including 8,972 registered voters – as part of the Center’s American News Pathways project. More than half (56%) say their news sources have published breaking information before it was fully verified, and 37% say their sources have reported made-up news that is intended to mislead.
The findings come against a backdrop of broader concern about misinformation in the United States. In the same survey, 59% of Americans say made-up information that is intended to mislead causes a “great deal” of confusion about the 2020 presidential election. Many say the same about breaking news that is not fully verified (47%) or factual information presented to favor one side of an issue (42%).
To examine Americans’ views of inaccurate information and the 2020 presidential election, we surveyed 10,059 U.S. adults from October 6-12, 2020. Everyone who took part is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Among registered voters, differences emerge between Trump and Biden supporters
Registered voters who support Donald Trump are about twice as likely as registered voters who support Joe Biden to say that the news sources they turn to most often have reported made-up information that is intended to mislead the public (45% vs. 22%). They are also somewhat more likely to say their news sources have reported breaking information that hasn’t been fully verified (59% vs. 50%) and factual information presented to favor one side of an issue (73% vs. 64%).
Voters who support Trump also express greater concern about these types of misinformation than do Biden voters. Nearly two-thirds of Trump supporters (64%) say that unverified breaking information causes a great deal of confusion about the election, while just about a third of Biden supporters (36%) say the same. And 59% of Trump supporters say a great deal of confusion is caused by facts presented to favor one side of an issue, compared with 36% of Biden supporters who say this. Majorities of both groups say made-up information causes a great deal of confusion, with around seven-in-ten Trump supporters (71%) and 60% of Biden supporters saying this.
Large majority says Americans see different facts depending on the news sources they turn to
U.S. adults believe that partisans cannot agree on basic facts, according to the same survey. The vast majority of Americans (85%) say that Trump and Biden supporters cannot agree on basic facts about important issues facing the country – similar to findings about Republican and Democratic voters in 2018. And eight-in-ten say they think Americans tend to get different facts depending on which news sources they turn to.
On both measures, Trump and Biden supporters largely agree. About nine-in-ten in each group say they disagree on basic facts (89% of Trump voters say this, as do 91% of Biden voters). And more than eight-in-ten in each group say that Americans often get different facts depending on which news sources they turn to (89% of Trump voters say this, as do 84% of Biden voters).
Note: Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and the methodology. Visit our interactive data tool to access the questions included in this report, as well as other content about the 2020 presidential election. You can find all of Pew Research Center’s research about misinformation here: https://www.pewresearch.org/topics/misinformation/.