Pew: Younger Demos Better at Separating Fact from Opinion

Turns out the 18-49 demo is better at distinguishing between fact and opinions in the news, an important skill as the two are more increasingly combined, driven in part by attacks on the press by President Trump that have news outlets fighting back.

That is according to a new analysis of a Pew Survey Center study conducted Feb. 22-March 4, 2018, the results of which have just been published. Pew read respondents a series of statements and they had to place them in either the fact or opinion category.

The poll found that about a third (32%) of 18-49-year-olds correctly identified all five factual statements, while only 20% of those 50-plus could do the same.

When respondents incorrectly classified a factual statement as an opinion, said Pew, "they most often disagreed with the statement."

Almost half of the 18-49-year-olds (44%) identified all five of the opinion statements, while only a quarter (26%) of 50-plus did so.

Not only were the younger respondents better able to distinguish facts from opinion, they did so "regardless of the ideological appeal of the statements [see graphic]." Pew said the statements were meant to appeal to one side of the political spectrum or the other.

For example, "government is almost always wasteful and inefficient" for Republicans and "abortion should be legal in most cases" for the Dems.

Pew said that the younger demos' edge may be attributable to the fact that younger adults are less likely to identify strongly with a political party, or are more digitally savvy, which Pew says is tied to better classifying news statements.

But even accounting for that, says Pew, "[y]ounger adults are still better than their elders at deciphering factual from opinion news statements."

Pew polled 5,035 U.S. adults for the survey.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.