In America, the young find distinguishing fact from opinion easier than their elders

A recent Pew poll challenged subjects to distinguish between factual statements and statements of opinion in news articles; it found that there is a large gap in accuracy between 18- to 49-year-olds (32% of whom correctly labeled 100% of the facts, and 44% of whom correct labeled 100% of the opinions) and those aged 50 and up (20% correctly labeled all facts; 26% correctly labeled all opinions).

Young people performed well regardless of the ideological nature of the facts and opinions, while older subjects' ability to sort fact from opinion was more likely to struggle when such sorting cut against their ideological bias.

For example, 63% of 18- to 49-year-olds correctly identified the following factual statement, one which was deemed to appeal more to the right: “Spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. federal budget.” About half of those ages 50 and older (51%) correctly classified the same statement. Additionally, 18- to 49-year-olds were 12 percentage points more likely than those at least 50 years of age (60% vs. 48%, respectively) to correctly categorize the following factual statement, which was deemed to be more appealing to the ideological left: “Immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have some rights under the Constitution.”

Among the opinion statements, roughly three-quarters of 18- to 49-year-olds (77%) correctly identified the following opinion statement, one that appeals more to the ideological right – “Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient” – compared with about two-thirds of older Americans (65%). And younger Americans were slightly more likely than older adults (82% vs. 78%, respectively) to correctly categorize this opinion statement, one appealing more to the left: “Abortion should be legal in most cases.”

Younger Americans are better than older Americans at telling factual news statements from opinions [Jeffrey Gottfried and Elizabeth Grieco/Pew]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Loading...