News avoidance and misinformation are growing problems especially in a big election year like 2024 with citizens in 76 countries, including the US, going to the polls. Social media is increasingly important as a news source for Europeans a recent Eurobarometer shows. A new Pew Research study says social media play a crucial role in Americans’ news consumption with half of adults at least sometimes getting news there. But a growing number says inaccurate news reports is a problem.
Those who get news on social media name a variety of things that they like about it, including convenience, speed and the element of social interaction. But accuracy, low quality and politically biased news on social media are concerning.
The share who say inaccuracy is the aspect they dislike most has increased from 31% to 40% in the past five years.
Convenience remains the top thing people like most about getting news on social media. One-in-five social media news consumers say this, with responses such as “It’s at my fingertips,” “I can easily get it” and “It’s available all the time and anywhere.”
Another 9% say they like the speed with which they can get news there, describing news on social media as “fast and to the point” and “quick and easy to digest.”
Smaller shares say they like interaction with others, the up-to-date nature of the news, the content or format, and the variety of sources and stories.
Meanwhile, 7% who get news on social media say they don’t like anything about the experience, and an additional 32% did not offer a response.
Four-in-ten who get news from social media say inaccuracy is the thing they dislike most about it – an increase of 9 percentage points since 2018. This category of responses includes concerns about unverified facts, misinformation, “fake news” and unreliable sources.
A much smaller share of social media news consumers (8%) say they dislike the low quality of news there, with some giving clickbait or a lack of in-depth coverage as examples.
Others say the news on social media is too biased or political (6%) or they don’t like the way people behave there (5%).
Another 1% of social media news consumers say censorship is what they dislike most. This category includes responses such as “Too much censorship by the sites” and “I really dislike when some of my view points are removed.”
Just 4% of respondents say they don’t dislike anything about getting news on social media. Another 31% did not answer the question.
The perceived downsides of getting news on social media may help explain why many Americans prefer to go directly to news outlets instead, the Pew says.
45% say they prefer news outlets for getting the most in-depth information about an issue or event, while only 11% prefer social media posts for this.
Social media news consumers also tend to prefer news outlets over social media to get:
- The basic facts about an issue or event (39% vs. 14%)
- Up-to-date information about an event as it is happening (34% vs. 21%)
- Information about how an issue or event impacts them (31% vs. 15%)
In each of these cases, roughly four-in-ten or more say they like social media and news outlets about the same.
In contrast, equal shares prefer news outlets and social media when it comes to opinions on an issue (22% each).
Previous Center research has shown that younger Americans are more likely than older Americans to prefer getting news from social media, and that pattern also appears in the findings of this survey. Adults under 30 express a clear preference for using social media over news outlets to get opinions on an issue (36% vs. 13%) and up-to-date information as an event is happening (35% vs. 21%). 65 and older are much more likely to prefer news outlets over social media for every type of information.