Published on November 14, 2019
Each year, USAFacts conducts a poll to assess how Americans feel about facts, data, and where that data comes from. The resulting report, called the State of the Facts poll, provides insights into to how Americans agree and disagree on the nature of data. We partnered with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research to conduct our 2019 poll.
The State of the Facts Poll examines Americans’ perceptions of what constitutes a fact, their ability to understand facts, and their use and trust of government sources. While who and what people trust is divided along political lines, Americans have consensus on other aspects of facts and data.
For example, 54% of Americans say the presidents’ political beliefs have a lot of influence on government information, while 30% say the same about federal agency employees. Democrats and Republicans polled had similar views on this question.
However, Americans trust the federal government more on some topics than others: Republicans are more likely than Democrats to trust government information on the economy (33% vs. 17%), immigration (25% vs. 14%), foreign affairs (22% vs. 13%), and infrastructure (21% vs 14%).
Meanwhile, there is a 40% difference in how much Democrats and Republicans trust public television or radio, with 57% of Democrats trusting it, as opposed to 17% Republicans. There’s a smaller gap in trust — but much less trust overall — when it comes to national TV news: 37% of Democrats said they trust it, while only 14% of Republicans did.
And as the 2020 presidential campaign gets underway, Americans are expressing deep skepticism about the information provided by political candidates. Just 9% of American adults say that candidates’ campaign messages are always or often based in fact. Only 13% say the same about political debates.
On the flip side, 54% of Republicans believe candidates’ campaign messages are rarely or never based in facts, compared with 39% of Democrats thinking the same. There are generational differences, too: Baby Boomers have less confidence in politicians’ statements than Millennials.
There were a few topics where the generations came together, and those instances illustrate a need for reliable data. Both 30% of Millennials and Baby Boomers — and 31% of Generation Xers — say they rarely or never think decisions by policymakers are based in factual information. There is a three-percentage-point gap between Boomers and Millennials on if they believe reporting from the media is rooted in facts.
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