Fake news may not have affected an electoral process in Argentina like it did in the US 2016 elections or the Brexit referendum, but according to a multi-national survey recently released by consulting firm Ipsos, this phenomenon has definitely had an impact on the general population’s perception of their political reality. For example, does the average Argentine believe they can tell factual news from otherwise bogus content? Does they believe their countrymen can make this same discernment? What role do Argentines believe news organizations have in constructing a healthy political debate in the country?
(Spoiler alert: an overwhelming majority of Argentines – the highest percentage among the 27 countries surveyed – believe the media’s participation in public political discourse to be detrimental.)
82 percent of Argentines said they have seen news organizations often lie deliberately, whereas 16 percent said they have not witnessed outright lying. The world average on this particular item was that 60 percent of people believe the media to be guilty of churning out lies.
However, when asked a similar, more tactful question – if, in general, the media misleads people – we see the incredulous portion of Argentines drop from 82 percent down to just over half, at 54 percent. These figures can help us draw many possible conclusions – one being that perhaps Argentines, not surprisingly, believe that the news organizations with which they aren’t politically aligned are the ones lying through their teeth.
Moreover, 65 percent of all people surveyed believe the average person lives in a bubble on the internet – not us but an actual information bubble – mostly cherry picking for opinions and content they already agree with. However, only 34 percent of everyone surveyed said they themselves live in their own bubble (big surprise.) With regards to the first item, Argentina is slightly above the average, with 68 percent of those surveyed agreeing with the premise. However, when asked if they lived in their own bubble, we see a much larger disparity in the figures. Argentina fell well below the average, with only 23 percent admitting to living in their own political echo chamber and 70 percent rejecting the idea outright. The world average was 34 and 56 percent, respectively.
This illustrates just how present political discourse is in the daily lives of Argentines. Only in Germany were there fewer people, 22 percent, admitting to only connecting with people whose political ideologies and opinions match their own. The reasons for this may vary: It could be that Argentines are exhibiting a greater eagerness to leave their comfort zone, expand their horizons, diversify their news sources – call it how you’d like. Or it could be that people here are more likely to engage with their ideological counterparts and take their opinions to the ever-present virtual battleground – although this behavior is hardly novel in today’s day and age.
Continuing in this vein, regarding who does and does not live inside a political bubble – it behooves us to take a closer look at an even more interesting metric. When comparing the percentage of Argentines who believe they personally are able to identify fake news with the percentage who believe the general public is able to do the same, we see a stark difference in numbers – a 35 percent difference to be exact. The multi-national average was 22 percent. This indicates a lack of communal confidence amongst Argentine lay people, to say the very least.
Moreover, when asked “whether the average person in the country doesn’t care about political facts and society anymore, and just believes whatever they want,” 67 percent of Argentines surveyed confirmed this to be absolutely true, drowning out the meager 26 percent who disagreed. This 41 point difference is 11 points above the world average, with only four countries exhibiting a more considerable rift in public opinion.
But the public distrust is not circumscribed to just the media flowing through televisions, social media networks and the like. The survey also indicates Argentina is among the top three countries that believe politicians mislead people as well, with 62 percent saying this is the reality.
La grieta is alive and (not) well in Argentina.