Misinformation Concern is Bipartisan, but Democrats Blame Foreign Powers and Republicans Blame the Media, New GW Survey Finds

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February 28, 2020

WASHINGTON (Feb. 28, 2020)—There is a stark partisan divide over who’s to blame for misinformation circulating during the presidential election season, according to new research from the George Washington University. 

A nationwide survey found Republicans and Democrats are highly concerned about the spread of misinformation and the potential impacts it might have on American politics and society. However, when asked who’s at fault, while Democrats and Republicans both are concerned with misinformation produced by foreign powers, the latter group is much more likely to blame journalists and activists. 

Large numbers of Democrats and Republicans (8 in 10) say foreign governments and individuals create at least some misinformation, but Democrats are more likely to say foreign governments produce “a lot” of made up news and information (50%) compared with Republicans (29%). Two thirds of Republicans believe a lot of misinformation is created by journalists, a view shared by only 17% of Democrats. That Republican view of the media may also create a challenge to countering misinformation, because efforts the media make to report the facts of a situation may be taken themselves as misinformation. Both Democrats and Republicans see political leaders as contributors to disinformation. 

 “With Republicans as likely to blame journalists as anyone else for the spread of misinformation, the weakening of trust in democratic institutions – one of Russia’s goals – is already happening,” GW researchers Danny Hayes and Kimberly Gross said in a Washington Post column about their findings. “And with research by scholars at George Washington University’s Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics suggesting that Facebook remains unprepared to prevent online election meddling, 2020 will bring further challenges to an electoral system facing threats from without and within.”

Specific datapoints about views on misinformation and democratic principles, including crosstabs by party, are available on the GW Politics Poll website


Opinions of Foreign Nations

The survey asked respondents their feelings toward various countries. Canada, a close ally, was not surprisingly rated very positively, with an average rating of 75 on a 100-point scale (100 was the most positive). North Korea was rated the most negatively (15), with Iran (19) and Russia (25) close by. China was rated an average of 31.

Given a cohort of four geopolitical rivals and asked to identify the greatest threat to the U.S., China was chosen by the most people (27%), followed by Russia (24%), then Iran (17%) and North Korea (15%). Opinions were mixed about whether China’s rapid economic growth and expanded international influence is a threat or an opportunity for U.S. interests.


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The complete poll also included data on politicians’ favorability ratings, impeachment issues, support for democratic principles, party direction and more. The poll website includes a tool to create crosstabs of any two questions included in the GW Politics Poll. 

For additional data and analysis, visit the GW Politics Poll website. For interviews with the professors leading the poll, contact GW’s press office.


About the GW Politics Poll

The GW Politics Poll is managed jointly by GW's School of Media and Public AffairsGraduate School of Political Management and Department of Political ScienceYouGov, a respected leader in online polling, conducted the academic, nonpartisan research poll for GW. This poll was fielded Feb. 3-14, 2020, with a sample of 1,200 registered voters and a margin of error of ±3 percentage points for the full sample. 

The GW Politics Poll continues the strong tradition of public opinion research at GW, which includes the GW Battleground Poll, a nationally recognized series of surveys conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. The final edition of the GW Battleground Poll was released in March 2018.