Did You Know?

More information does not mean more knowledge, say many

DYK 1 Plethora of Sources

How would you answer this question:

Does the increase in information available today make it: “Easier to be well-informed because there are more sources of news that are easily accessed through newer technologies” or “Harder to be well-informed because people have to sort through lots of information to determine what is true or important”?

Nearly 60% of Americans asked that question say that it’s harder to stay informed; 38% asked said that it was easier.

In the introduction to American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy (PDF), which is based on results of a survey conducted by Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the authors bring up the related idea that with more information comes more misinformation. And the report notes that “people have to devote considerable effort to determine what is true or important.”

The responses were split by party: 69% of Republicans said it was harder, while 47% of Democrats did. Of independents, 61% said they felt overloaded by information.

Tied in with the “overwhelmed” feeling that so many have about staying informed is their belief that they cannot sort out facts amid the bias. Only half of adults today believe that there are “enough” news sources to allow them to determine the facts, according to the report — which also noted that when an American Society of Newspaper Editors survey asked the same question in 1984, two-thirds said that enough sources were available to determine the facts.

In an interview with Mashable, Sam Gill, Knight Foundation’s vice president of communities and impact, said what he found most surprising was the idea that there could be too much information.

“An implicit core tenet of our democracy is that the more information we have access to, the more likely we are to get to the truth, to make better decisions,” he said. “At a time when we have as much information as we’ve ever had, we find it’s harder today to be informed than in the past. And I think that’s something that should give us pause.”

Results of the 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation Survey on Trust, Media and Democracy were based on mail interviews collected between Aug. 4 and Oct. 2, 2017, from 19,196 adults, ages 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.