As Fake News Explodes, 58% of Americans Say They Trust Their Sources

Understanding how Americans consume and evaluate their news sources is an important piece of this discussion. Here are 10 facts you should know, from a new survey conducted by ReportLinker.

In the weeks leading up to the U.S. presidential election, two headlines generated significant interest among voters:


“FBI Director Comey Just Put a Trump Sign on His Front Lawn”


“Barbara Bush: ‘I Don’t Know How Women Can Vote’ for Trump”


The articles were shared widely, and although both were believed to be accurate, only the second headline turned out to be true.

The proliferation of fake and misleading news and what to do about it has been a trending story in the media industry, in post-election coverage. The media (which, it should be noted, has a stake in this issue) has interviewed the creators of false articles, scrutinized the roles of Facebook and Google, and even named fake news the “Lie of the Year.”

Understanding how Americans consume and evaluate their news sources is an important piece of this discussion. Here are 10 facts you should know, from a new survey conducted by ReportLinker.


1. Trending: NBC Nightly News 

Even as more people cut the cord, television news remains a dominant influence in American life. Nearly half of Americans – or 47% – say they get their news from television. That’s the same percentage that say they get their news from the internet, ReportLinker found. Older Americans are more likely to turn on the TV to get information about current events, while Millennials prefer to check the internet. Americans also say they’re more likely to get news from family and friends than from newspapers, radio or magazines.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”AOvIV” via=”no” nofollow=”yes”]47% of Americans get their news from television #TV #media #fakenews[/ctt]

2. Trending: Knoxville News Sentinel

When Americans do read newspapers, they’re more likely to turn to local media. Survey respondents mentioned reading local newspapers 65% of the time, more often than the national dailies. According to ReportLinker, USA Today garnered 17% of mentions, followed by the New York Times (12% of mentions) and the Wall Street Journal (11% of mentions).

3. Trending: Are Americans News Junkies?

News is everywhere, it seems. After all, it’s on TV, on our desktops, and in our pockets. That’s why it’s not surprising that three-quarters of Americans say they check for news at least once a day. However, there’s a correlation between frequency of updates and preferred news sources. For example, 60% of those who check just twice a day say they watch television news, the survey found, while those who check more frequently – 3-5 times a day – are more likely to turn to the web for information.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”bm90k” via=”no” nofollow=”yes”]75% of Americans check for #news at least once a day[/ctt]

4. Trending: iPhone

Wherever we go, our smartphones go too, and by extension, so does the news. Smartphones make it easier to find out what’s happening in the world. Almost two-thirds of Americans say they use their smartphone to get news, three times more than those who use a desktop or laptop, says ReportLinker. Significant majorities of younger Millennials (81%) and Hispanics (84%) tend to use their smartphones more often, while notable shares of Americans aged 55-64 (42%) as well as Asians (79%) prefer to get news on their laptops or desktops.


5. Trending: Millennials Shock Elders by Reading Most # of News Sources

Millennials are frequently stereotyped and maligned, but it would be hard to find fault in the number of news sources they consume. While 57% of Americans say they usually consult two or three sources, Millennials are more likely to consume four, five, or even more, according to the ReportLinker survey.

Another interesting finding: The more frequently someone checks the news, the more likely they are to vary their news sources. Forty-five percent of those who say they rely on five or more sources for news are also more likely to look for updates more than five times a day.

6. Trending: Is Facebook a Media Company?

As a news source, Facebook is both popular and influential, even as it is heavily criticized for not doing enough to distinguish between real and fake news. Its Facebook Trending feature, for example, has promoted several, high-profile fake news stories that went viral.
Yet, thirty-two percent of respondents to ReportLinker’s survey say the largest social network is their main source of news. Even Google, the most popular search engine, comes in second, with one in five Americans using it to get their news. One indication of Facebook’s level of influence is that half of those who say they rely on only one source of information also say that source is Facebook.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”Cj4On” via=”no” nofollow=”yes”]#Social network Facebook is the main source of information for 32% of Americans[/ctt]

7. Trending: An Algorithm Told Me What to Think

The days of flipping through the newspaper, reviewing headlines and stopping to read articles that interest us are likely over. Today, we have less control over what news we discover, as algorithms serve up content based on articles we’ve clicked and read previously. This practice prevents us from seeing alternate viewpoints and contributes to our own, unique “echo chambers.”


8. Trending: Fake News

Facebook and Google are technology companies, so there’s no guarantee of editorial quality. That means readers need to determine for themselves if the news is reliable. More than half, or 58%, of Americans say they’re confident all the websites they use are reliable. But a significant percentage also say Facebook is their only news source, meaning many likely believe much of what they read on the social network. Since a considerable number of stories shared on the social network have been shown to be false, it seems many readers aren’t taking the time to verify if articles are accurate.  

9. Trending: How to Avoid Being Fooled by Fake News

If fake news headlines fool American adults 75% of the time, as a survey conducted by Ipsos and Buzzfeed News found, how can readers determine if a story is true? Americans say they look at several factors to validate news sources. Respondents to the ReportLinker survey ranked accurate data highest (at 22%), followed by media credibility (20%), the sources quoted (12%), and the date of the article (9%).

10. Trending: #NewsHacksByAge

Age also plays a role in how readers evaluate news sources, the ReportLinker survey results show. Older Millennials (aged 25-34) are more likely to judge news credibility based on the types of links that appear in the article, as well as the author’s field of expertise. But middle-aged respondents (45-64 years old) tend to trust detailed text more. Meanwhile, older respondents (65 and over) are more likely to trust established media websites.

As media and technology companies search for ways to combat fake news, it’s clear news consumers also have a role to play: They must become adept at telling the difference between real, false and misleading information. After all, the most effective way to eliminate fake news is to make sure “critical reader” becomes a trending topic.


This survey conducted by ReportLinker reached 517 online respondents representative of the US population. Interviews were conducted between December, 7th and December, 8th 2016.