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By Maria Pengue | April 1, 2021 | 0 Comments

27 Alarming Fake News Statistics on the Effects of False Reporting [The 2024 Edition]

In today’s pluralistic democracy, every voice counts. Behind every vote, there’s an opinion. This opinion is formed when people interpret the information that reaches them.

But what happens when this information is inaccurate or fake? How does one make a valid conclusion based on false premises? How does fake news affect public opinion?

As these fake news statistics will show, this is one of our society’s biggest plights.

We can see its adverse effects everywhere. Political occurrences and oscillations, mass hysteria, and global trends can all be shaped by falsified information. This is why it’s vital to delve deeper into the concept of false reporting and the misinformation it creates.

Top Fake News Statistics and Trends (Editor’s Pick)

  • Media trust worldwide has dropped by 8% between 2020 and 2021.
  • In 2020, only 29% of US adults said they mostly trust news media.
  • 52% of Americans say they regularly encounter fake news online.
  • 67% of US adults say they’ve come across false information on social media.
  • 35.5% of millennials read political news on Facebook.
  • Social media is the least trusted news source worldwide, fake news statistics show.
  • 56% of Facebook users can’t recognize fake news that aligns with their beliefs.
  • In Q3 of 2020, there were 1.8 billion fake news engagements on Facebook.

Trust in Media Statistics in 2021

1. Media trust worldwide has dropped by 8% between 2020 and 2021.


Each year, more and more people are losing trust in mainstream media, statistics show.

According to a 2021 survey, 53% of people worldwide still trust the media. While this is more than half the world’s population, it’s a significant decrease from 61% in 2020. Most people (61%) cite the lack of objectivity as the main reason for their loss of trust. Furthermore, 59% say that news organizations exaggerate or entirely fabricate information to support their ideology.

2. In 2020, only 29% of US adults said they mostly trust news media.


The highest levels of media trust worldwide were recorded in Europe, where the effects of fake news aren’t so visible. Finland (56%), Portugal (56%), and the Netherlands (52%) all rank among the top 5 countries. Meanwhile, the US (29%) is in the bottom 10, along with Hungary (27%), the Philippines (27%), and Taiwan (24%).

3. November 2016 was a major turning point for people’s interest in the term “fake news.”


Based on the previous statistic, it’s hardly surprising that November 2016, the month of the US presidential election, was the turning point in Google users’ interest in the keyword “fake news.”

Since one of the major candidates — and the subsequent winner — brought it up many times, it came to public attention with far greater efficiency. It also shed more light on the media’s impact on public opinion and how it shapes major political events in the country.

4. 21% of readers believe that The New York Times is very accurate.


Media consumers choose different outlets to avoid the misinformation effect created by fake news. The New York Times is one of the names held in very high regard. According to a 2020 survey, 21% of readers believe that The Times is very accurate. Another 28% think the paper is somewhat credible, while only 15% say it isn’t at all trustworthy.

5. 41% of Americans actively avoid the news.

(Reuters Institute)

A recent survey found that a record-high 41% of Americans actively avoid watching or reading the news. Most of them do it to avoid false information, stats reveal. They also say reading the news makes them feel sad and depressed about the current state of the world. Additionally, many say they’ve noticed that the media disproportionately focuses on negative information.

6. 52% of Americans say they regularly encounter fake news online.


More than half of US internet users say they regularly stumble upon fake news, and another 34% say this happens occasionally. While the percentage of false information on the internet is high, many also report finding fake news in traditional outlets.

Namely, 31% of Americans say they regularly come across false news in print, television, and radio. Another 46% occasionally find some information they believe is fake, statistics show.

7. 10% of US adults have knowingly shared fake news.


It’s not just the media that participate in the spread of fake news — regular people do it, too.

A large percentage of American adults have shared fake news on social media, data suggests. While 49% learned the information was false after they had shared it, 10% admit to being aware that the info was untrue at the time of posting.

Trust in Mainstream Media by Region and Demographic

8. 27% of male and 26% of female news consumers believe that mainstream media reports false information most of the time.


It seems that gender is not a major determiner when it comes to one’s aptitude to believe or doubt mainstream media. According to a recent survey, 27% of male and 26% of female participants believe that mainstream media spreads fake news most of the time.

Concerning the people who believe that the media sometimes reports fake news, stats show the difference between the two genders is negligible. The most significant is the 6-point difference among those who said they were “not sure” — 13% of women vs. 7% of men.

9. 44% of Republicans think mainstream media is spreading fake news.


According to statistics on fake news, political affiliation seems to be a major determiner in public opinion. Namely, 44% of people identifying as Republicans believe that mainstream media outlets report fake news most of the time. Compared to only 7% of the surveyed Democrats who say the same, the difference is more than evident. It primarily stems from the belief on both sides of the political spectrum that certain parties control or even own media companies.

10. 32% of people over 65 say that mainstream media outlets spread false news.


While the younger demographic is often accused of skepticism, it’s the older demographic that predominantly blames mainstream outlets for spreading fake news and alternative facts. In fact, 32% of Americans over the age of 65 believe that popular media distributes false information. On the other hand, only 22% of people under 30 share this belief.

11. Ethnicity is also a determining factor, with 30% of white Americans accusing popular media of spreading fake news.


There’s an apparent correlation between trust in mainstream media and ethnicity. According to fake news stats, only 14% of Blacks believe that mainstream media spreads false news most of the time. Meanwhile, 30% of white Americans, 24% of Hispanics, and 22% of people of all other ethnicities share the belief that popular media has an active role in spreading fake news.

Fake News on Social Media Statistics

12. 67% of Americans have come across fake news on social media.

(Ipsos, Statista)

Americans believe that false information is most prevalent on social media — 67% say they’ve personally encountered it there. Furthermore, 69% of them think that platforms aren’t doing enough to prevent this, while some even directly blame the sites for deliberately spreading misinformation. This also shows the perception of social media’s impact on the news.

13. 53% of American adults read the news on social media.

(Pew Research Center)

According to a 2020 survey, just over half of American adults (53%) get their news from social media. Sadly, not many users have the habit of making an active effort to flag down polarizing content. According to some, platforms themselves should encourage such behavior and raise user immunity through education.

14. 35.5% of millennials read political news via Facebook.


With more than a third of US millennials getting their news from Facebook, hoax shares are a severe threat in this information age. Only 14.2% of Gen-Zers look for news on Facebook, but they’re not immune to fake news, either — 34.8% of them get news updates from YouTube, a site known for giving content creators a platform to share falsified information. The biggest concern here is how these sites will address the rising trend of social media misinformation.

15. Social media is the least trusted news source worldwide.


In a 2020 global survey, only 35% of people said they trusted social media — down from 40% in 2019 and a historical low. As the world faced a global pandemic, the fake news influence also contributed to the loss of trust in other outlets. Search engines are currently the most trusted news source worldwide, with 56% of people saying they believe the information they find there.

16. When it aligns with their beliefs, 56% of Facebook users can’t recognize fake news, social media statistics show.


Due to the so-called confirmation bias, people will trust the news that confirms their existing beliefs and values — even if the information is entirely fabricated. A recent study found this applies to most Facebook users, regardless of their education or political affiliation. According to the results, Facebook users will correctly identify fake headlines in just 44% of the cases.

17. In Q2 of 2020, Facebook removed 7 million posts that contained fake news.

(NBC News)

Facebook is actively trying to limit the amount of false information its users are exposed to. To stop the spread of fake news on Facebook, statistics show that the powers that be have removed more than 7 million posts in the second quarter of 2020 alone. All these posts contained false or unverified information about the then-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so their removal was also a way to prevent this fake info from putting people’s health in danger.

While Facebook’s fake news problem is severe, statistics suggest the platform is also battling other issues. During the same period, the social media giant has removed another 22.5 million posts for containing hate speech and 8.7 million for promoting extremist organizations.

18. In Q3 of 2020, there were 1.8 billion fake news engagements on Facebook.

(The German Marshall Fund)

Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, falsified information from fake political news sites generated 1.8 billion engagements on Facebook. According to statistics, this is a staggering 242% increase from 500 million engagements just before the 2016 election. While this data is concerning, there’s now an active — and relatively successful —  effort to suppress fake news.

Fake News Statistics - People Protesting

The Misinformation Effect on Politics

19. 71% of people believe that fake news negatively affects their own political discussions with their friends and family members.


The majority of people are willing to believe the news that aligns with their own political views. This often happens regardless of the source since most people don’t bother to verify the content. This is why 71% of people believe in the negative effects of news media and false information on their political discussions with friends and family members.

20. 83% of people believe fake news negatively affects their country’s politics.


The majority of people seem to be aware that fake news shapes their country’s politics. Moreover, 83% of them believe that this effect is overwhelmingly negative. They also claim that the political discussion in their countries has fallen victim to false reporting, statistics show.

21. 80% of people are convinced that fake news has a negative effect on other countries’ politics, too.


The fact that about 80% of people believe that fake news negatively affects other countries’ politics speaks volumes of it as a global phenomenon. Furthermore, 82% of people think that false reporting harms the political discourse in those countries. Fake news statistics worldwide suggest more and more people are aware of this problem and its adverse effect on politics.

22. In recent years, we’ve witnessed a massive rise in media exaggeration.

(The Guardian)

There’s this thing called the car accident phenomenon. Although everyone knows car accidents are disturbing, no one can walk by one without looking at it. For this very reason, about 95% of all news headlines are blown out of proportion. It is also why 90% of all media news is negative. Most importantly, it’s the main reason why media exaggeration recently saw a staggering rise.

23. A fake news outlet in France generated 11 million interactions monthly.

(Icelandic Journalists Union)

According to statistics about fake news, one known fake news outlet in France generated more than 11 million interactions per month. This was roughly five times more than some of the better-established news brands. On the one hand, this is a clear testament to the reach and influence of fake news websites. On the other hand, false news outlets usually don’t generate as many interactions — even when they have a superior reach.

24. 47.5% of Americans were very concerned about the fake newsinfluence on the 2020 US election, statistics reveal.


US adults over the age of 65 expressed the highest level of concern — 64% said they were very worried, and another 27% were somewhat concerned. Meanwhile, the 18–29 group showed the lowest levels of concern, with only 33% saying they were very worried about fake news affecting the election outcome. Only 4.5% of Americans said they were not at all worried, most of them in the 30–49 age bracket.

Additional Facts About Fake News

25. There are two major types of fake news.

(Mind Tools)

There are two major types of fake news one needs to learn to tell apart. The first one is news that is just outright fake. The other type is stories that have some truth to them but aren’t entirely accurate. The problem here lies in the fact that the factual elements lend these stories some credibility, thus making them more believable.

26. The number of authors is a tell-tale sign of a news item’s credibility.


One of the well-known fake news facts is that the author information is usually enough to determine if a news story is credible. Namely, works with no signed authors typically prove to be fake. Information coming from one author could go either way, but news items with two or more credited authors most often turn out to be true.

27. 28% of authors post both fake and true stories.


Using the author’s reputation to estimate how credible the story is might not be the most reliable method. Namely, one study found that 28% of all authors posted both fake and true stories. This almost completely ruins the idea of categorizing authors into fake and true news authors.


One of the most interesting things about these fake news statistics is that people seem to possess a general lack of ability to examine information critically. Sure, most people are aware of the mainstream media’s downsides, but not enough of them are suspicious of random information they encounter online.

The only way to overcome this problem is to be suspicious of everything and learn how to ask the right questions. While it’s true that some sources are more credible than others, the source itself is still not the guarantee of the validity of the information a reader is receiving. In other words, in this digital era, critical thinking is the only way to tell what’s real and what’s not.


What percentage of news is fake?

The exact number of fake news out there is impossible to tell. However, as many as 86% of all internet users admit they have been duped by fake news at one point or another. This was based on a sample group of 25,000 internet users across 25 countries and, while it can be taken as a representative, it still doesn’t show the full scale of the problem.

What percentage of statistics are made up?

Interpreting data is an exact science only if one has all the factors that go into certain research. This never happens in the real world, so the exact number is never 100% accurate and is always hard to give. The biggest problem with online statistics is that 94% of people never check the number they’re presented with. How do we know that? Well, we don’t — the number in the previous sentence was completely arbitrarily chosen.

How many fake news sites are there?

There are several ways to approach this question. First, one could say that 62% of online news, websites, and platforms are viewed as prevalently fake by internet users. Other than this, about 87% of all adults believe that fake news is made worse by the internet and that it harms their country’s political life.

Who coined the term fake news?

While former US President Donald Trump definitely popularized it, the term “fake news” was not coined by him. The term itself dates from the late 19th century, when journalists used it to attack their rival newspapers and magazines.

How much fake news is on Facebook?

Facebook is slowly cracking down on harmful news sources, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive rise in fake news and conspiracy theories. Yes, the number of engagements with spreaders of fake news reached an all-time high in 2020. But Facebook has already removed millions of posts to halt their spread, fake news statistics reveal. There is reason to be optimistic, but the algorithm designed to detect fake news still needs work.