California voters concerned about political disinformation and lack of trust in media

There is a significant lack of trust among voters in information sources, with low trust in both mainstream and social media platforms.

Concept - Computer Keyboard with red key that says FAKE NEWS, online dangers

A recent poll conducted by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that most California voters, regardless of party affiliation, race, or age, view political disinformation as a significant problem. Over half of the participants deemed the lack of information accuracy and trustworthiness a significant issue, while one-third considered it a minor concern.

The survey also revealed a general lack of trust in information from all sources, regardless of their reliability. Approximately 58% of voters expressed low confidence in political and election data provided by mainstream media. In comparison, an even more significant majority of 79% lacked trust in election-related news on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter (now known as X), and TikTok. Trust in mainstream news sources strongly varied amongst different political parties, with only 15% of Republicans having a fair amount or a great deal of trust. In comparison, 57% of Democrats shared this sentiment. When it comes to accessing political news, local television and radio were identified as the primary sources for most California voters (67%), followed by reference materials and online searches (54%), and newspapers or magazines in print or online (44%).

The survey also highlighted campaign strategies that perpetuate inequalities within the electorate. Previous surveys by the Berkeley Institute have shown that regular voters in California tend to be older and of Caucasian descent, leading campaigns to mainly target these voters while neglecting other demographics. Furthermore, the survey underscored disparities in campaign outreach based on race. White voters tend to receive campaign mailers, texts, emails, and calls more frequently than voters of color. Approximately half of Latino voters reported occasional or no contact from campaigns, while 38% of white voters said the same.

Why does it matter?

The poll illustrates the widespread concern about political disinformation among California voters and the lack of trust in traditional and social media as sources of political and election information. The division of trust in news sources along party lines indicates the ongoing polarization of the state’s political landscape. Furthermore, the survey highlights campaign strategies that overlook marginalized communities, potentially deepening inequities within the electorate. Although voters express dissatisfaction with information sources, they generally appear satisfied with the government’s provision of basic election information.