ICS survey: Political parties – main source of disinformation in Macedonia
The prevailing opinion among the Macedonian population is that political parties and the media are the main disinformation propagators. The majority of people believe they can recognize disinformation, but admit that, on occasion, they have shared false information themselves. Their main source of information is television, Facebook and websites, but they have very little trust in the media.
This is evident in the results of the од public opinion survey on citizens’ ability to recognize and counter disinformation, which the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS) in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis”, conducted in October, as part of the “Use Facts” project.
Different generations have “seen through” politicians
The people believe that the political parties spread the most disinformation in Macedonia, and the media come in second, according to the public opinion survey. When gauging the respondents’ perception, a smaller part of them answered that state institutions are the biggest propagators of disinformation, and 13 percent answered that political parties, media and state institutions equally spread false information.
The view that political parties are most proliferous in spreading disinformation was held by more than half of the population over the age of 55. On the other hand, the most common answer among young people is that the media are the biggest culprits in regards to disinforming, although political parties were also often mentioned.
The people are informed, but do not trust the media
The main findings indicate that most of the people get informed about global current events several times a day. To the question “Which topics do you find most interesting?”, the majority of respondents answered economy and politics, followed by sports, music and entertainment, and finally the climate and the environment. The older population is mostly interested in politics, while young people are most interested in music.
Television is the most widely used source of information, followed by Facebook and websites. People aged 18 to 44 are mostly informed through Facebook, while television is the most popular information source with the group aged 45 to 64 and those over 65.
Regarding trust in the media, more than half of the respondents stated that they have their doubts regarding any news they read. Nearly a third of them check how a piece of news is reported in other media, while only 4 percent of respondents said they have complete trust in the media and in the news they read.
How can we assess the ability to recognize disinformation?
More than half of the population thinks that sometimes they can recognize disinformation and sometimes it happens that they themselves share incorrect information. From a gender perspective, men are more confident that they can always recognize disinformation than women.
Regarding the sharing of disinformation, one third of the respondents answered that they have never shared disinformation, a smaller part believe that it happens to them often, while the majority believe that they sometimes share news that is incorrect.
The respondents often feel upset when realising that they have read disinformation. 30 percent of respondents are unperturbed, while 10 percent answered that they get very angry or that they laugh in such cases. The feeling of anger and distress is more prevalent among older population groups.
Sensationalism in reporting mostly works with the most educated groups. Respondents in the survey were offered several headlines regarding the same news, and the results showed that the majority of respondents would choose to read a news story with a neutral headline. If the data is analysed according to the level of education, the majority of respondents with completed post-graduate studies, doctorates or specializations would read a story with a sensationalist i.e., misleading headline. On the other hand, citizens with completed primary, secondary or higher education opt to read stories with a neutral headline.
The respondents were also divided on their views on conspiracy theories related to the European Union. Hence, the difference between those who agree that the EU invented vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic as a mechanism for controlling the people and those who disagree with that is quite small. From an age perspective, the majority of respondents aged 25-34 (52 percent) answered that they disagree with the statement, while in other age groups the differences between those who agree and disagree with the news are insignificant.
Politicians and media should take responsibility
The results of the survey show that in Macedonia it is still necessary to work on increasing the population’s ability to recognize disinformation and its sources, but also on strengthening the professionalism of the media, which would restore the people’s trust. Restoring trust is also needed when it comes to political parties. It is obvious that politicians should be the first to roll up their sleeves i.e., take responsibility and refrain from spreading fake news in order to score political points.
The research was carried out through a telephone survey of a sample of 1,010 adult citizens in October 2022, with the aim of determining citizens’ awareness of threats from disinformation and their sources, to determine the level of knowledge and skills for recognizing disinformation, as well as the people’s behaviour in relation to disinformation.
The research was conducted by the Institute of Communication Studies, in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis”, as part of the “Use Facts” project, which is supported by the British Embassy in Skopje. The project aims to strengthen the resistance of the general public and vulnerable groups in Macedonia to disinformation.
Content created by the Institute of Communication Studies.