Fact Lovers in Times of Alternative Facts and Fake News

Today's guest contribution is from our partner, market and social researcher Ipsos, about alternative truths.

In light of angry citizens, social media shitstorms and online hate speech, it becomes more difficult to distinguish between facts and opinions simply driven by emotions. Populist statements spread faster, seem to have a higher truth value and appear more compelling to many people than evidence based information. But why is it that real facts often get less attention than fake news? We believe that there are different reasons for this:

Lies Disguised as Facts

Societal challenges are complex and often explained in complicated ways that are difficult to understand to most people. Populists, on the other hand, talk in a simple and persuasive way. They address people’s anxieties and pursue a politics of fear. Using lies instead of facts is part of their strategy.

Loss of Trust in Fact Suppliers

Market and political opinion research did not always perform perfectly in past years. Wrong predictions of the Brexit referendum and the US election damaged the credibility of these established fact suppliers. Moreover, even highest government representatives incite distrust towards investigative journalists. They also spread fake news to unsettle people and to harm their political opponents. As a result, it gets harder and harder to decide who to trust and who not to trust

Speed of Information and Networks

The ever more accelerated spread of information through social networks makes it increasingly difficult to differentiate between real and fake news. Social Media is not ruled by verified information but by speed. Sharing tweets and posts without checking the reliability of the source of information is a common. Plus, friends and follower are perceived as more trustworthy than those, who produce news and facts professionally.

Alternative facts are a major challenge for market and social researchers like us. It is our job to get as close to the truth as we can, using scientific approaches. This has never been more important than in these post-truth times!

This year the re:publica trusts the re:searchers of Ipsos as their fact suppliers. 

Image credit: Ipsos