September 29, 2017

Real Polling on Fake News: Facebook Faces Strong, Bipartisan Outrage Over Russia’s Paid Media Efforts in 2016 Election

WASHINGTON — New exclusive polling conducted by Public Policy Polling for Factual Democracy Project shows that Americans remain surprisingly aware — and strongly disapprove — of how the platform enabled Russians to use paid media and fake news to influence American voters in the most recent election.

The polling is being released amid media reports that Russian operatives used Facebook to buy ads targeting Black Lives Matter activists among others, and news that Facebook officials will testify before Congress about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

“We learned two important things from this poll.” said Melissa Ryan, founder of Factual Democracy Project, “First, there’s broad bipartisan agreement that Russia shouldn’t be allowed to buy political ads targeted at American voters. There’s also bipartisan agreement that Facebook should hold itself to the same standard as a media company and not allow fake news to be published and shared on their platform. Facebook is one of the world’s most profitable companies. The public understands that and expects it to protect our Democracy by fighting back against disinformation campaigns that target American voters.”

Key Findings (Link)

  • While Mark Zuckerburg said in a post yesterday that Facebook should be “a platform for all ideas,” Americans don’t agree and don’t think that Facebook should be given any kind of special pass. More than 70 percent believe that Facebook has the same obligation as a more traditional news company to not share “fake news” during elections.
  • Even in today’s polarized political environment, voters are united that Facebook should prevent “fake news.” 70 percent of Trump voters and 78 percent of Clinton voters alike said Facebook should not be used as a platform to spread “fake news.”
  • 56 percent of registered voters have seen or read news reports that Facebook allowed Russia to target voters with paid media. And 58 percent say that the recent news involving Russia has given them a less favorable impression of Facebook, which captures one of every five U.S. digital ad dollars.
  • Facebook is not very popular and the floor is lower still. Facebook had a 37 to 36 percent favorability rating. Among Trump voters, favorability stood at 29-49. Among Clinton voters favorability was nearly the reverse: 44-28. The risk for the company is further fallout among Clinton voters ahead of Congressional testimony in November.

The poll of 865 registered voters was conducted Sept. 22-25 by Public Policy Polling. The margin of error is 3.3 percent.

Factual Democracy Project brings together experts that span tech, media, national security and civil society groups to explain how to fight back against efforts that use fake news — propaganda, disinformation and misinformation to disrupt our elections and our Democracy.

Factual Democracy Project’s first conference call, Bots & Computational Propaganda, focused on social media manipulation. The second, on Conspiracy Theories and Right-Wing Media, was this week. The lineup for the full call series can be viewed on the organization’s website.

Founder Melissa Ryan has spent a decade leading digital campaigns for nonprofits and political races, including EMILY’s List, Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the New Organizing Institute, and Senator Russ Feingold. She is an expert on the intersection of politics, media, and technology. She’s often called on by conference organizers and the press to speak on these topics. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @MelissaRyan.

Contact: [email protected]
Sept. 28, 2017