Scottish citizens’ perceptions of the credibility of online political “facts” in the “fake news” era

Graeme Baxter (School of Creative and Cultural Business, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Rita Marcella (School of Creative and Cultural Business, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Agnieszka Walicka (Aberdeenshire Libraries, Oldmeldrum, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 9 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a study that explored public perceptions of the credibility of “facts and figures” contained within five social media posts produced by political parties in Scotland.

Design/methodology/approach

The study consisted of an online survey conducted in Spring 2017 (n=538). Respondents were asked to gauge the reliability of “facts” contained within the posts, to provide reasons for their answers, and to indicate how they might go about confirming or debunking the figures.

Findings

Less than half the sample believed the posts’ content would be reliable. Credibility perceptions were influenced by various factors, including: a lack of cited sources; concerns about bias or spin; a lack of detail, definitions or contextual information; personal political allegiance and trust; negative campaign techniques; personal experience of policy issues; and more intuitive judgements. Only small numbers admitted that they would not know how to find out more about the issues or would be disinclined to look further. The majority appeared confident in their own abilities to find further information, yet were vague in describing their search strategies.

Originality/value

Relatively little empirical research has been conducted exploring the perceived credibility of political or government information online. It is believed that this is the first such study to have specifically investigated the Scottish political arena.

Keywords

Citation

Baxter, G., Marcella, R. and Walicka, A. (2019), "Scottish citizens’ perceptions of the credibility of online political “facts” in the “fake news” era", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 5, pp. 1100-1123. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-10-2018-0161

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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