If you hate the media, you’ll be less successful at identifying fake news headlines, according to a new survey of media attitudes. This latest research was conducted by the News Co/Lab at Arizona State University in partnership with the Center for Media Engagement at The University of Texas, Austin.

Researchers, who surveyed 4,854 people in Fresno, Kansas City and Macon, Georgia, also found that those with negative views of the news media were less likely to be able to differentiate between news stories and opinion content. Here are details of the work:

“We dug deeper into common characteristics of people as they relate to their ability to spot fake headlines, and found significant differences in people’s ability to spot fake headlines depending on education level and attitudes about news,” the News Co/Lab reported in this post.

“When given two real headlines and one fake headline, 68 percent of survey participants with a college degree or more were able to successfully identify the fake news headline, compared to 57 percent of participants with less than a college degree. Note that this means that more than 30 percent of college-educated participants were unable to identify the fake headline.

“We also asked survey participants to share the first word they think of when they heard the word “news.” Seventy-four percent of those identifying as Republicans used a negative word, such as “fake” or “biased,” whereas only 26 percent of those identifying as Democrats used negative words. The negative association was also found to be a differentiating factor in spotting fake headlines. Participants who associated negative words with the word “news” were less able to spot fake headlines and to distinguish news from opinion, analysis or advertising.”

Researchers also posed questions to journalists, news sources (those who are quoted in the newspaper), and members of the public in the three communities to indicate how well a series of adjectives applied to the local news organization. Not surprisingly, journalists gave themselves higher ratings than did the news sources and the public.

You can read the full survey here.

This survey confirms what other polls have found, and adds urgency to finding ways to bridge the trust gap between media outlets and news consumers. That is one of the key goals of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust. Our other goals include improving media literacy and develop strategies to identify fake news.

Please follow our work, and participate in programs and events that will build a foundation to improve the media trust gap. We welcome everyone’s participation, and believe that the more partners we have, the stronger our work will be.

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