Most Canadians have been duped by online content, but think concern over fake news is excessive

September 23, 2019

Most Canadians have been duped by online content, but think concern over fake news is excessive

TORONTO – September 23, 2019 – Canadians offered some conflicting opinions about their trust in online content, as part of a Historica Canada poll conducted by Ipsos ahead of the 2019 federal election. Nine in ten Canadians (88%) are concerned about information that circulates online, but six in ten (61%) believe that the public concern over “fake news” is excessive.

However, Canadians admit to helping spread false information. More than half of Canadians (56%) admit they have read or shared online content they believed to be true and current, only to find out later it was inaccurate, outdated, or in some cases satire. And nearly half (45%) say they’ve corrected someone else who has shared something false.

When it comes to news consumption, almost all (94%) Canadians feel it’s important to seek out a wide range of sources but just half (52%) say they regularly seek out multiple perspectives on major news events. While more Canadians say they use traditional media than online sources (76% vs 70%), three in ten (30%) say the majority of their news comes from social media. That doubles (57%) among adults under 35.

Most Canadians (69%) are confident in their ability to differentiate between an opinion piece and a news article, but they may be overestimating themselves. When presented with six statements of either opinion or fact, just one in ten (12%) could correctly identify them all.

 “There has never been a time when Canadians have faced a greater volume of information – some real, some not," said Anthony Wilson-Smith, President and CEO of Historica Canada. "At Historica Canada, we put a great deal of focus on education and the importance of accuracy and context."

Historica Canada is currently developing educational resources to promote media literacy, including a video series launching next month that explores historical examples of the spread of misinformation. The Ipsos online survey of 1,000 respondents found that 86% of Canadians support making media literacy a requirement in education.

Other findings include:

  • Three in five Canadians feel they can always or usually determine accuracy of online content (56%) and recognize bias in news media (59%)
  • Four in ten (41%) say they always or usually seek out historical context around issues dominating headlines. 
  • The top criteria people use to judge the legitimacy of a digital news source are corroboration by other sources (49%), whether it is a digital branch of a traditional media outlet (44%), qualifications of reporters and editors (43%)
  • Three in five (60%) say they regularly read beyond the headline for a more thorough understanding of a story
  • Four in ten (41%) recognized the statement The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the most important moment in Canadian history as an opinion, while three in five (58%) identified the statement Entrepreneur Viola Desmond is on the Canadian $10 bill as fact.

Historica Canada offers programs you can use to explore, learn, and reflect on our history and what it means to be Canadian.  

Full survey results available here.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between August 23rd and 26th, 2019, on behalf of Historica Canada. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians were interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.