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According To Pearson/NORC Poll, Most Americans Think Misinformation Is A Problem

According to the results of a poll released by the Pearson Institution and Associated Press-NORC, 95% of Americans believe that misinformation regarding current events and issues to is a problem, with 81% saying it’s a major problem.

Additionally, 91% say that social media companies are responsible for the spread of misinformation, with 93% saying the same of social media users. More Americans said that they blame social media users, social media companies, and U.S. politicians for misinformation spreading more than the U.S. Government or other foreign governments. However, older adults are more likely to blame foreign countries than younger adults.

41% are worried they have been exposed to misinformation, but just 20% are worried they have spread it themselves. The poll, which involved 1,071 adults, found that younger adults are more likely to worry about possibly having spread misinformation more than older adults.

Lastly, most Americans felt that social media companies and users, the U.S. government, and U.S. politicians all share responsibility for dealing with the spread of misinformation.

The results of this poll shouldn’t be too surprising, as the threat and spreading of misinformation has grown exponentially during the rise of social media in the past decade.

In addition, major events have been at the center point of misinformation, such as elections, natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have had their opinions on the virus and vaccines effected due to the fake news that is swirling around them, which shows us that something as simple as a lie or exaggeration in an article can have massive, negative impacts.

Social media platforms have made attempts in the past to combat misinformation. Back in 2017, Facebook discussed some of the steps it was taking to limit this matter, such as updating fake account detection, identifying fake news while fact-checking organizations, and making it harder for parties guilty of misinformation spreading to buy ads. Facebook also assured users of easier reporting of fake news and improved news feed rankings.

Those improvements clearly haven’t done much, if anything at all. In 2020, Forbes reported on a study that found that Facebook was the leading social media site to refer to fake news over 15% of the time, while referring to hard news just 6%. It wasn’t a close margin between social media sites, either. Google came in with 3.3% untrustworthy versus 6.2% hard news, while Twitter had 1% untrustworthy versus 1.5% hard news.

Speaking to 60 Minutes, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen explained how the tech giant prioritized what content users would see on their news feeds, which helped led to the spread of misinformation that targeted fierce reactions.

“And one of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is it is — optimizing for content that gets engagement, or reaction. But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions.”

If you are worried about biting the bait on or spreading around misinformation, there are plenty of ways to train yourself to have a more keen eye. According to The Verge, looking at factors such as survey and infographic sources, quotes, names and keywords, and the time-sensitivity of an article can all help you in concluding whether or not there may be misinformation afoot.

You should also take the time to consider other details, such as who is providing the information and how the story is being presented by different media sources. The Verge also urges for readers to think about their own feelings— are you getting strong emotions from reading the article? Do you want to instantly share it? If articles are feeding into reactions more than emphasizing actual facts or information, then that could be a red flag.

CNN News

Bernie Sanders Reaches Frontrunner Status in CNN Poll

According to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has dramatically improved his standing in the 2020 Democratic primary race, as for the first time in CNN’s history of polling this race he has eclipsed Joe Biden. According to the poll, 27% of registered Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents support Sanders, whereas 24% prefer Biden. Though Sanders’ support is impressive, particularly considering his radically progressive policy agenda, the difference between Sanders and Biden is within the margin of error, meaning that this poll shows no clear frontrunner at the moment. That being said, Sanders and Biden are clearly in the lead compared to the other candidates; Warren ranked in 3rd place at 14% whereas Buttigieg is at 11%, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg receiving 5% support. Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar each received 4% support among those included in the poll.

It’s important to note that while Sanders has made significant progress in the race so far, it’s still early in the primary season, as the first votes have not yet been cast. While Biden has consistently remained among the most popular choices for the Democratic candidate, last year he was briefly overtaken by Elizabeth Warren, though Warren has since fallen behind in the polls amid criticism of her Medicare-for-All plan and a personal dispute with Sanders over whether he told her a woman could not be elected president in a meeting between the two in 2018.

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As the primary process continues, the Democratic candidates have intensified their criticisms of one another; a recent Sanders ad questions Biden’s record on protecting Social Security, and Biden rebuked these claims with an attack ad of his own, accusing the Sanders campaign of lying about his record. These attacks have led Democrats to fear that the political damage that the candidates are inflicting on one another will hurt whoever ends up as the Democratic nominee, and these fears are magnified by the intense focus Democrats have on defeating Donald Trump in 2020. 

One of the key factors that influences voter turnout is enthusiasm, and fortunately for Sanders, 38% of Democratic voters say they would be enthusiastic about voting for Sanders in the general election if he wins the nomination, even though enthusiasm towards all of the other candidates has decreased in recent months. Sanders is also seen as the candidate who most often agrees with voters on the issues they consider to be the most important, and he also is considered to be the candidate who best understands the issues facing the American voter.

The current election cycle is a unique one in American history, as it represents an opportunity for Democrats to radically shift the direction of the country

However, at the forefront of most voters’ minds is the issue of electability, as Democrats across the board are most interested in nominating the candidate who stands the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in the general election. According to the poll, Joe Biden is still considered to be the most electable candidate by a significant margin; 45% of Democrats say that Biden has the best chance of defeating Trump, whereas just 24% say the same of Sanders. That being said, Sanders has made progress in this field as well, as increasing numbers of Democrats feel that he can defeat Trump, and indeed Sanders consistently ranks more favorably than Trump by several percentage points among voters generally, as do several of the other Democratic candidates. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Republican voters report being more enthusiastic about voting in the general election than Democratic voters do, a likely result of political fatigue after Democrats witness headline after headline of what they consider to be profoundly negative news generated by the White House and Congress.

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When it comes to the issue of which candidate has the best chance of uniting the Democratic party, though, Biden substantially outperforms Sanders; 41% of voters name Biden as having the best shot of uniting the party whereas just 16% say the same of Sanders. This is unsurprising considering Sanders’ record as an independent senator and a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” and considering his ambitious policy proposals, Sanders will have to get Democrats on his side one way or another in order to pass promised legislation such as Medicare-for-All, which is sure to be an uphill battle for him if he wins the presidency. 

That being said, the current election cycle is a unique one in American history, as it represents an opportunity for Democrats to radically shift the direction of the country, as the party is likely to embrace a radical set of policies in order to energize voters to defeat Trump in November. At this stage in the process, no one can say with certainty what will happen several months from now; however, recent polls give renewed enthusiasm to Sanders supporters, many of whom are still bitter about how the Democratic primary unfolded in 2016 amid accusations that the DNC was biased towards Hillary Clinton.

The White House

Majority of Americans Believe Evidence Supports Removing Trump from Office, Poll Finds

A poll conducted by Ipsos and FiveThirtyEight, an organization that aggregates and analyzes opinion poll data, has found that 52% of Americans believe enough evidence exists with respect to Trump’s conduct with Ukraine and his refusal to cooperate with Congress to warrant his removal from office. An aggregate of polls conducted to determine whether Americans support impeaching Trump has found that roughly half of Americans have supported the impeachment inquiry since Pelosi announced it, whereas the other half oppose impeachment. Though the impeachment inquiry lasted several weeks and produced devastating evidence directly implicating the president in withholding aid money to Ukraine in exchange for campaign assistance, these revelations have not changed Americans’ minds about impeachment, as poll results have remained remarkably consistent throughout the process. However, this most recent poll suggests that some Americans are slowly beginning to realize the extent of the president’s misconduct, though Trump’s remarkably steady approval rating indicates that it is unlikely that an overwhelming majority of Americans will ever support removing the president while he remains in office.

Although a majority of Americans (57%) believe Trump engaged in impeachable conduct, just 47% of Americans favor removing him from office, apparently believing that the question of whether Trump should remain the president should be determined by American voters this November. This means that roughly 15 percent of Americans believe that Trump committed impeachable conduct that warrants his removal from office but do not support removing the president before the election. Predictably, public opinion is split along party lines; 82% of Democrats support removing Trump from office, whereas only 9.7% of Republicans hold the same opinion.

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One thing that both Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on, however, is that the upcoming Senate trial should feature witnesses who were not present during the phase of the process controlled by the House in order to expand on the evidence unearthed over the past few months. 57% of Americans want to see a Senate trial with new witnesses, whereas 39% believe the focus should be kept on the evidence presented by the House. That being said, Democrats and Republicans largely disagree on who should be called as witnesses—Democrats think that officials like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, who have direct knowledge of the conduct for which the president was impeached, should participate in the trial, whereas Republicans want senators to question people like Hunter Biden, who is the subject of Trump’s allegation of his opponent’s political corruption. 

When it comes to how lawmakers are handling the impeachment process, which is currently in a stalemate as Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate as leverage to negotiate the terms of the trial, Americans are almost evenly split on their approval of this tactic as well. Pelosi’s tactic may end up backfiring on Democrats, depending on how long she continues to withhold the articles, as withholding them for too long could give credibility to allegations that the impeachment process was motivated by political concerns instead of by constitutional obligation as the Democrats claim. 

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The poll also found that Americans are becoming increasingly unlikely to change their mind on the question of impeachment as time goes on. In mid-November, roughly 75% of respondents who believed Trump’s conduct was impeachable felt “absolutely” or “pretty” sure that they were right, whereas now 81 percent of respondents profess this degree of certainty. However, when it comes to Americans who think Trump’s conduct was not impeachable, this degree of certainty has not seen a similar increase, as 71% of this group reported being “absolutely” or “pretty” certain of their view in mid-November and 72% of this group reported being this certain in this latest poll.

Though the holiday season is officially over, the parameters of the Senate trial remain unclear, as lawmakers have made little progress in their negotiations over the rules of the trial. As such, at this unprecedented moment in history, it’s difficult to predict what, if any, effect the trial will have on public opinion, though trends over the past several years suggest any change will be minimal.