Americans across the political spectrum say misinformation is increasing political extremism and hate crimes, according to a new poll that reflects widespread and significant concern about false and misleading claims ahead of next month’s midterm elections.

About three-quarters of US adults say misinformation leads to more extreme political views and behavior, such as incidents of violence based on race, religion or gender. This is evidenced by the results of a survey by the Pearson Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

“We’re now at a point where misinformation is so bad that you can trust very little of what you read in the media or on social media,” the 49-year-old said. Republican Brett Reffait of Indianapolis, who participated in the survey. “It’s all about getting clicks, not the truth, and extremes get attention.”

A Pearson/AP-NORC poll shows that regardless of political ideology, Americans agree that misinformation is taking its toll on the country.

Overall, 91% of adults believe the spread of misinformation is a problem, with 74% calling it a serious problem. Only 8% say that misinformation is not a problem at all.

A large majority of both parties — 80%. Democrats and 70% of Republicans say misinformation increases extreme political views, according to the poll. Similarly, 85% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans say misinformation increases hate crimes, including violence based on gender, religion, or race.

Overall, 77% of respondents believe misinformation increases hate crimes, while 73% say it increases extreme political views.

“It’s not a sustainable rate,” said independent Rob Redding, 46, of New York. Redding, who is Black, said he fears the misinformation will lead to more political polarization and violent hate crimes. “People so denying how dangerous and divisive this situation is.”

About half say they believe misinformation leads people to become more politically active.

About 7 in 10 Americans say they are at least somewhat concerned that they have been exposed to misinformation, although fewer than half said they are so concerned that they are responsible for spreading it.

This is consistent with previous surveys that have shown that people are more likely to blame others than take responsibility for spreading misinformation.

Half of US adults also believe that misinformation reduces trust in government.

“Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true,” said Shirley Hayden, 74, a Republican from Orange, Texas. “A lot of it is opinion, and a lot of it just creates problems. I no longer believe in anything.”

Americans who rate misinformation as a serious problem are more likely to say it contributes to extreme political beliefs and distrust of government than those who don’t, the poll shows. They are also more likely to try to reduce the spread of misinformation by publishing statements from multiple sources or fact-checking websites.

Overall, about three-quarters of adults say they choose not to share something on social media, at least some of the time, because they don’t want to spread misinformation, including about half who do so most of the time. Similar percentages regularly check the news sources they encounter and check other sources of information to ensure they are not exposed to misinformation.

Only 28% of Americans turn to fact-checking sites or tools “most of the time,” although another 35% do so occasionally. About a third say they rarely or never do it.

“My Facebook page is filled with such materials. I see it on TV. I see it everywhere,” Democrat Charles Lopez, 63, of the Florida Keys said of the misinformation he faces. “Nobody does the research to see if it’s fake or not.”

Whether it’s lies about the 2020 election or the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, conspiracy theories against COVID-19, or misinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, online disinformation has been blamed for increasing political polarization, distrust of institutions, and even real-life violence. in the world.

The spread of misinformation in recent decades has coincided with the rise of social media and the decline of traditional, often local, journalism outlets.

The results of the Pearson Institute/AP-NORC poll didn’t surprise Alex Mahadevan, director of MediaWise, a media literacy initiative launched by the Poynter Institute that works to give people protection against misinformation.

“You have uncertainty, polarization, a decline in local news: it’s a perfect storm that has created a flood of misinformation,” Mahadevan said.

People can learn to spot misinformation and avoid dubious claims, says Helen Lee Buig, founder and president of the Paris-based Reboot Foundation, which researches and promotes critical thinking in the Internet age.

First, rely on a variety of reliable, reputable sources for news and fact-checking, Buig said.

She also urged people to double-check claims that appear to be made to play on emotions such as anger or fear, and to think twice about reposting content that relies on loaded language, personal attacks or false comparisons.

“There are steps people can take — simple steps — to protect themselves,” Buig said.

Lopez, a survey respondent from Florida, said he has lost friends after disavowing misinformation they posted online and that new laws are needed to force tech companies to do more to combat misinformation. That might happen, he said, if voters can cut through the fog of misinformation ahead of next month’s election.

“You can always have hope,” Lopez said. “Let’s see what will happen after these elections. You can call me then.


Associated Press writer Noah Dolby in New York contributed to this report.


The survey of 1,003 adults was conducted Sept. 9-12 using a sample drawn from the NORC AmeriSpeak Panel probability group, which is intended to be representative of the US population. The sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.


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Learn more about the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at