Fake news
Fake news iStock

Americans view fake news as a critical issue, judging it as a worse problem than terrorism, climate change, sexism, racism and immigration, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The poll, released on Wednesday, shows that well more than a majority of Americans (68%) responded that fake news greatly impacts their confidence in US government institutions. More than half (54%) say that widespread misinformation impacts their confidence in each other as well as their confidence(51%) in the ability of US politicians to get their work done.

Over a majority of US citizens said they have been exposed to fake news and have changed the way they receive news as a result, such as avoiding specific news resources (63%) or fact-checking news reports (78%). A full half of Americans say that they have eschewed conversing with someone due to their suspicion that the person would inject fake news into the conversation.

The US public primarily places the blame for fake news on political leaders and activist groups rather than journalists but expect that journalists be the ones to rectify the issue. Over half (53%) of Americans believe that journalists have the greatest responsibility to reduce fake news.

The partisan split makes itself known in fake news as well, with Republicans (62%) viewing fake news as a worse problem than Democrats (40%). Republicans also are far more willing to blame journalists for the problem, with 58% blaming journalists for spreading misinformation versus only 20% of Democrats placing the blame on journalists.

Republicans also have less faith in political groups than Democrats, with 73% of Republicans blaming activist groups for fake news versus 38% of Democrats, and 63% of Republicans placing the onus on political leaders or staff versus 53% of Democrats.

Surprisingly, Americans who primarily receive news through social media don't report seeing more fake news than those who receive their news through other means. The survey did find one difference between those who prefer social media to receive their news and that was that they are slightly more optimistic about "how the issue will evolve" and they are also more likely to share news.

Finally, the survey showed that the issues that Americans view as more critical than fake news are drug addiction, health care affordability, the income gap, and the US political system.