True. False. Mostly true. This is misleading. When did recognizing a true fact become so difficult?
Scrolling through social media and coming across statements from presidential candidates that can be so shocking is inevitable, but when it happens, it’s difficult to take them as anything but the truth.
Countless people have lost the ability to distinguish the difference between opinion-based material and factual information — myself included. In August, after both the Democratic and Republican national conventions aired, I was scrolling through Instagram and Twitter seeing conflicting statistics and “facts” declaring one convention had more views than the other.
Being confused as to which convention truly had a higher virtual turnout, I performed a quick search to validate the alleged facts I was seeing on my timeline. That was the moment I realized many people do not double check the facts they see on social media and accept what they want to believe true as truth — elected officials included.
News outlets have vigorously been fact checking claims made by the presidential candidates over the past few months. As of Aug. 27, The Washington Post calculated over 22,000 false or misleading claims floated by President Donald Trump during his presidency.
“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.” This law of propaganda is arguably the most relevant it’s ever been in American History. It’s becoming disturbingly common for presidential candidates to repeat alleged information without any actual evidence in order to influence voters.
Let’s take a look at pre-existing conditions.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has repeatedly vowed to protect patients with pre-existing conditions and claims Biden is determined to abolish these protections. According to Sabrina Corlette and Emily Curran of The Commonwealth Fund ,this is not only false but a complete reversal of true statements.
Individuals with pre-existing conditions are protected through Obamacare — the 2010 law Biden has sworn to preserve and further strengthen if elected.
Trump has repeatedly attempted to pass bills that will weaken the protections granted to those with pre-existing conditions and is now attempting to permanently remove Obamacare. His promise to protect those with pre-existing conditions has been vague, placing most of his plan on an executive order he has not yet explained or proposed.
Another topic sparking apprehension is mail-in ballots.
Tens of millions of Americans vote by mail every year. This year, the integrity of the mail-in system is being questioned by many politicians — including the president.
Much of the unease is triggered by the language used by the president, including terms like “dangerous,” “unconstitutional” and “fraud.” No matter what language is used, there is no factual evidence to support the risk of mailing in your ballot.
Numerous studies disprove the alleged danger surrounding mail-in ballots, yet the dramatic and heightened language continues to ignite fear in the minds of American voters.
With facts so clear and so accessible to the general public, why is it so hard for individuals to distinguish what is true and what is an opinion?
To test the lines between fact and opinion, I referred back to a 2018 study performed by the Pew Research Center. The 10-question quiz tested the ability of 5,035 U.S. adults to distinguish between a true factual statement and an opinion statement.
The findings of the study revealed the simple task of separating fact from opinion is a challenge. Only 26% of adults were able to identify all five factual statements and 35% were able to isolate the five opinion statements.
If determining the difference between fact and opinion is so difficult, why do presidential candidates tell the public so many false ‘facts’? Easy. To fire the emotions and keep the people of the United Sates engaged in their agenda.
When opinion-based material is mixed with factual information, the content expressed by these candidates seems more credible and spins their narrative in a favorable direction.
Many times, the information is inaccurate and the opinions placed within the facts influence their Democratic or Republican supporters.
As American voters, the deliberate spread of disinformation is something we need to be conscious of. When scrolling through your social media timelines, slow down and do some research before clicking the share button. Check the source behind the information to determine if the material is fact or simply a fact-driven opinion.
Today, it may seem as though the line between fact and opinion has blurred. But, regardless of how politicians want to spin the narrative, facts will never cease being facts.
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