Star Herald Editorial

Study shows younger voters are better at fact versus opinion; we all need to vote smarter

Study shows younger voters are better at fact versus opinion; we all need to vote smarter

Some people say wisdom comes with age, but sometimes with age comes being stuck in our ways.

A recent Pew Research Center study shows Americans age 50 and older have a difficult time distinguishing facts from opinions stated in today’s media.

The study, conducted earlier this year, asked participants to read 10 statements and classify which were fact and which were opinion.

Of those ages 18 to 49, 76 percent correctly identified all 10 statements as either fact or opinion. Of those over age 50, only 46 percent had all 10 correctly classified.

We’re encouraged that our young people understand legitimate news sources and question whether or not information is someone’s opinion, especially as the Nov. 6 general election approaches.

But we are concerned that our 50-and-older voters are less able to decipher factual statements from opinion statements, and “news stories” from extreme left- or right-leaning websites versus headlines from legitimate, credible news organizations.

That becomes especially troublesome when we consider that Rock County’s general population is comprised heavily of residents 50 and older.

As we draw closer to the Nov. 6 general election, we encourage voters of all ages to be critical of the information they’re absorbing — especially if it shows up in their social media feeds.

The more we learn about Russian interference with the 2016 elections, the more clear it becomes that meddling didn’t happen at the ballot box; it happened by shaping opinions of our voters.

An onslaught of divisive “breaking news” posts in 2016 fed voters on both sides of the conservative and liberal spectrum inflammatory and often outright false information about candidates they opposed.

The more they clicked and shared, the more the Facebook algorithms fed them similar posts. The result: a divided and misinformed electorate.

Perhaps younger voters are better at recognizing online “trolls,” and perhaps our older voters are more trusting and less discerning about sources that appear to be legitimate news.

Regardless, we all have to do better to vote smarter.

 

Candidate information and Election Day answers

Rock County Auditor-Treasurer Ashley Kurtz can be reached at 507-283-5060 with Election Day questions, or the Minnesota Secretary of State website, www.sos.state.mn.us has proven to be a useful tool for voters.

The Minnesota Secretary of State website https://myballotmn.sos.state.mn.us/ has links to sample ballots based on personal addresses. Voters can type in their addresses to see their election choices.

Several reputable organizations have profiled the governor, auditor, senate and congressional races to help voters decide which candidates to support.

The Minnesota Newspaper Association is one such site: http://mna.org/2018/08/2018-political-questionnaire.

The Star Herald has been profiling candidates in local races, and those responses can be viewed at www.star-herald.com by linking on the ‘2018 Election’ file at the bottom of the home page.

 

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