Poll suggests Canadians concerned about fake news, but struggle to spot it

Poll suggests Canadians concerned about fake news, but struggle to spot it

56 per cent of respondents admitted to reading or sharing inaccurate news

A new survey suggests Canadians are concerned about the proliferation of fake news, but they aren’t necessarily equipped to stop it from spreading.

The poll from Historica Canada, the organization behind Canada’s Heritage Minutes, surveyed Canadians on the state of the news media and their own capacity to distinguish fact from opinion.

The results were rife with contradictions: 88 per cent of respondents were concerned about the quality of information circulating online, but 61 per cent said the public concern over fake news is overblown.

More than half of survey participants admitted to either reading or sharing a story that later proved to be inaccurate or out of date.

Historica says 69 per cent of survey respondents believed they could tell the difference between fact and opinion, but only 12 per cent got a perfect score when asked to classify six test statements included in the poll.

About 86 per cent suggested media literacy should become mandatory learning for Canadian students, which Historica CEO Anthony Wilson-Smith sees as a sign Canadians are aware of the complexity of the issue.

“There’s enormous appetite and effort to follow news,” Wilson-Smith said, citing the fact that 94 per cent of survey participants professed to keep on top of current events. “People clearly understand the importance of being aware of what’s going on in the world. What’s less clear is the degree to which people are thinking about the veracity of the stories that they’re reading.”

READ MORE: How confident are you at spotting ‘fake news’?

Wilson-Smith said the survey suggests most respondents are following at least one fundamental rule of proper information-seeking by turning to multiple sources for their daily news. About 76 per cent of participants looked to traditional outlets such as print or television, while 70 per cent turned to online sources, and the majority of respondents said they drew upon both.

However, the numbers also indicated that survey participants struggled to sort the wheat from the chaff within those diverse sources.

The poll found 56 per cent of respondents admitted to reading or sharing inaccurate news reports, while 45 per cent indicated they’d had to step in and correct dubious reports circulated by others.

Wilson-Smith said the survey’s most troubling finding was the struggle to distinguish fact from opinion, particularly given the survey participants’ tendency to overestimate their own abilities.

Historica included six statements as part of the poll and asked participants to identify which category they fell into.

When presented with a sentence such as “the battle of Vimy Ridge was the most important moment in Canadian history,” for instance, only 41 per cent were able to correctly classify it as a statement of opinion.

When confronted with the sentence “The Montreal Canadiens have won more Stanley Cups than any other team in the NHL,” just 54 per cent were able to identify the statement as factual.

Only 12 per cent of survey respondents were able to provide the correct classification for all six test statements, while five per cent failed to get a single one right.

READ MORE: Historica Canada asks Conservatives to pull spoof of ‘Heritage Minute’

The survey also found respondents under the age of 55 were more discerning than older news consumers. About 45 per cent of respondents from that age group got at least four questions right compared to 33 per cent of those over 55.

The online survey of 1,000 respondents was conducted by Ipsos on Historica’s behalf between Aug. 23 and 26.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

Wilson-Smith acknowledged the ability to parse fake news from the real thing is more complex than simply being able to tell fact from fiction, noting that language choice in contrasting news reports can frame the same set of facts in a very different light.

He said the survey findings should serve as a caution both to media outlets and news consumers. Reporters must exercise care and consideration in their coverage, he said, while those reading or viewing their work should actively seek out multiple sources to ensure they’re hearing as many perspectives as possible.

“Reporting, much like current events themselves, is very seldom black and white,” he said.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal attacked by unseen predator in waters off Dallas Road

Victoria woman captures harrowing footage of what appears to be a seal’s final moments

In January, six flights with cases of COVID-19 onboard have landed at the Victoria International Airport so far. (Black Press Media file photo)
Two new COVID-19 exposures reported on flights to Victoria

A Jan. 10 flight from Toronto and Jan. 11 flight from Calgary were affected

December and January, so far, have seen their share of rain. (Black Press Media file photo)
Potential for snow in Greater Victoria after unusually wet December, January

Winter is on the way, says Environment and Climate Change Canada

Firefighters respond to a fire on Heatherly Road in Colwood Jan. 19. (Photo courtesy of View Royal Fire Rescue)
Two people escape injury in Colwood house fire

Heatherly Road fire started on a covered porch

Victoria police say the number of business break and enters in the city has been rising for the last four months. (Twitter/VicPD)
Business break and enters on the rise in Victoria

Sophisticated techniques used to defeat alarm systems, police say

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) sent out a sharply worded release late last week, in which it noted that the Tourism Industry Association of BC recently obtained a ‘legal opinion’ on the matter (Alex Passini photo)
Hotel associations push back against any potential ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel restrictions

B.C. Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on banning non-essential travel

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
COVID rapid tests in long-term care key during vaccine rollout: B.C. care providers

‘Getting kits into the hands of care providers should be a top priority,’ says former Health Minister

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Most Read