In an era of seemingly endless information, American adults are much more apt to say they like having so much information (77%) than to say that they feel overloaded (20%) by it. That’s according to a new study [pdf] from the Pew Research Center, which also finds most adults generally confident in their ability to judge the trustworthiness of the information they come across.
Indeed, roughly 8 in 10 said that the following statement described them very well (41%) or somewhat well (40%): “Most of the time, it is easy for me to determine what information is trustworthy.”
It’s an interesting result in light of the burgeoning discussion about fake news that proliferated on social media during the US election. Recent study results from Stanford University suggest that many students are unable to judge the credibility of information found online and can have a difficult time distinguishing between news articles and ads. Additionally, new survey results from Ipsos and BuzzFeed indicate that among US adults familiar with a fake news headline, fully 75% believed it to be accurate.
Perhaps this is the oft-cited gap between perception and action…
Meanwhile, some adults are having a more stressful time dealing with information than others. In particular, older adults, those with lower levels of education attainment, and those in low-income households tend to feel more overloaded by information than others.
There’s also a strong gap when it comes to internet access. Some 84% of adults who have each of 3 internet access pathways (home broadband, smartphone and tablet) like having information, compared to 55% of adults who have none of those pathways. Likewise, 72% of those adults with each of the 3 pathways feel that information helps simplify their lives, compared to just 52% of those who have none of the pathways. In deciphering the results, the analysts suggest that “one possible explanation is that people who are not comfortable with technology, and don’t have a lot of technology options, also know there is a modern world of digital information available to those who are proficient with digital tools.”
Finally, the survey found that adults with access to more digital gadgets are more likely to search for information than those without access to the internet. For example, 76% of those with all 3 access types reported having searched for community news and information in the prior 30 days, versus 48% of those with none of the tech access types.
About the Data: The analysis in the report is based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted March 7-April 4, 2016, among a national sample of 1,520 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Fully 381 respondents were interviewed on landline telephones, and 1,139 were interviewed on cellphones, including 636 who had no landline telephones.