Is Journalistic Truth Dead? Measuring How Informed Voters Are about Political News
56 Pages Posted: 20 May 2020 Last revised: 1 Jul 2021
Date Written: June 30, 2021
How many voters are informed about political news mainstream journalists consider important? We develop a methodology that combines a protocol for identifying major news stories, online surveys, and the estimation of a model that disentangles individual information precision from news story salience and partisanship. We focus on news about U.S. politics in a monthly sample of 1,000 voters repeated 8 times. On average, 85% of individuals are able to distinguish the major real news story of the month from fake news. 59% of individuals confidently believe this news story to be true, 39% are uncertain, and 3% confidently believe it to be false. Our results indicate that the starkest pattern about the ability of voters to identify major news stories is not the generalized death of truth or its ideological polarization but rather its unequal distribution along socioeconomic lines.
JEL Classification: L82
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