BEREA, Ohio – Voters polled in four Great Lakes states are wary of getting presidential campaign news from social media, with the majority viewing articles on social media as untrustworthy or misleading.
Most voters polled in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin also said that social media either strongly or somewhat increases the risk of Russian interference in U.S. elections, according to the Great Lakes Poll released Wednesday by Baldwin Wallace University’s Community Research Institute.
The survey focused on those four states because they flipped from voting for Democrat Barack Obama in 2012 to Republican Donald Trump in 2016. It asked voters representative of their state’s population about their beliefs related to the 2020 election — from which issues are most important to who they’ll vote for.
The survey was conducted online among self-identified registered voters in Michigan (1,023), Ohio (1,031), Pennsylvania (1,037) and Wisconsin (1,038) using Qualtrics, a firm that aggregates samples for surveys. BW said the survey included quotas for age, education, and gender for each state, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 to 3.3 percentage points for the statewide results in each state, higher for sub-groups.
About 18 percent of Ohio respondents said they use Facebook to find news about the presidential campaign “always” or “most of the time.” Results were similar across Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
More than 42 percent of poll respondents in each of these states said they never use Facebook for presidential campaign news. That percentage increased substantially for Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.
“Social media is a great thing. It opens up the world to us. It connects us all across geographic boundaries,” Terri Towner, a political science professor at Oakland University in Michigan, said. “But now we’re seeing that there may be evidence of foreign influence in our own elections. Elections (are) the essence of our democracy, right?
“This is really indicating to us that citizens need to turn or are going to turn to other media outlets for campaign news.”
Federal investigations found that Russian organizations in 2016 used political advertising and bots to place political messages on social media. Social media platforms cracked down on fake accounts and bots, but efforts have seemed to slow down Russian propaganda, not eliminate it, reports the Washington Post.
The majority of respondents said they do not trust the news they get from social media, with about 75 percent in each state saying they’ve seen articles on social media that seem false frequently or occasionally.
That view is consistent across party lines, though Democrats were more likely to say they see false articles frequently, while Republicans more often answered occasionally.
Party didn’t seem to heavily affect how respondents viewed the question of Russian interference, either.
In all four states, the majority of Republicans and Democrats said that social media would either strongly or somewhat increase the risk of Russian interference in elections. More Democrats chose the “strongly” answer, but more Republicans chose the “somewhat” answer.
About a quarter of respondents answered “unsure” for that question.
This is one in a series of cleveland.com stories about the Great Lakes Poll, conducted by Baldwin Wallace University in partnership with Ohio Northern University in Ada and Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. You can find links to all of the stories here.