Jon Oltsik, Senior Principal Analyst and Fellow; Bill Lundell, Director Syndicated Research
86% of registered voters agree that there are individuals and/or groups that are deliberately spreading disinformation in order to influence or disrupt US elections.”
The current US political landscape is fraught with extreme partisanship and polarizing positions on just about every issue. These dogmatic views are often influenced by political disinformation—false information spread deliberately to deceive a person or group. Yes, it seems like everyone has come across political disinformation or “fake news,” but just how widespread is this issue and is it really influencing political discourse or elections? To answer these questions, ESG recently conducted a survey of 1,000 registered US voters. The results indicate that political disinformation is a major problem that frustrates voters and leaves them questioning the validity of election results: nearly three-quarters (74%) of registered voters surveyed believe that political disinformation could impact the results of a US presidential election. Clearly, more action is needed from public and private organizations to address this endemic threat to democratic processes and norms.
In early October 2019, the Enterprise Strategy Group conducted a research survey focused on disinformation and its impact on voters and elections in the United States. For the purposes of this project, the term “disinformation” was defined as false information spread deliberately to deceive a person or group.
Registered voters residing in the United States.
voted in the 2016 US presidential election.
are certain they will vote in the 2020 US presidential election.
ESG also gathered demographic information on survey respondentsʼ age, location, ethnicity, income, and education level.
The data collected as part of this research project reveals:
In the upcoming weeks and months, ESG will further analyze this data by looking at response patterns by geographic location, gender, ethnicity, age, party affiliation, and other demographic variables. While this analysis will shed further light on political disinformation, the initial survey results are quite disturbing. ESG data indicates that disinformation, as yet another type of cyber-attack campaign, is pervasive, impacting elections on a national and local scale (authorsʼ note: while this survey is restricted in scope to the United States only, it is well documented that political disinformation campaigns are becoming a problem throughout the world). Furthermore, disinformation is viewed as the biggest election issue, causing a negative emotional response and making voters more frustrated and anxious about the overall electoral process.
The good news in our research is that voters appear to be undeterred from participating in the political process. Nevertheless, this research leads us to conclude that disinformation can only be viewed as an existential threat. Our democracy may depend upon collective actions like public education, source/content vetting, and stronger guardrails against foreign governments and special interests.