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Informing the Public

Two generations peruse the news. An analysis from the Pew Research Center found that younger American adults—those 18 to 49 years old—were better able to distinguish between factual and opinion statements in news sources.
Philip Lee Harvey Getty Images

Younger Americans better able to determine fact from opinion in news

An October analysis by the Pew Research Center found that younger Americans are better than their elders at separating factual and opinion statements in the news. A center study from June that asked U.S. adults to categorize five factual statements and five opinion statements revealed that about a quarter of Americans overall could accurately classify all five factual statements (26 percent) and about a third could classify all five opinion statements (35 percent). But age matters, according to the new analysis. About a third of 18- to 49-year-olds (32 percent) correctly identified all five of the factual statements as factual, compared with 2 in 10 among those ages 50 and older. A similar pattern emerged for the opinion statements. Among 18- to 49-year-olds, 44 percent correctly identified all five opinion statements as opinions, compared with 26 percent among those ages 50 and older.

How the public views algorithms

The Pew Research Center released a report in November on public views of algorithms, finding that 58 percent of Americans say that computer programs will always reflect some level of human bias, although 40 percent think these programs can be designed in a way that is bias-free. In various contexts, the public worries that these tools might violate privacy, fail to capture the nuance of complex situations, or simply put the people they are evaluating in an unfair situation. Public perceptions of algorithmic decision-making are also often highly contextual. The survey shows that otherwise similar technologies can be viewed with support or suspicion depending on the circumstances or on the tasks they are assigned to do.

Where Americans find meaning in life

The Pew Research Center released a report in November analyzing findings from two separate surveys about where Americans find meaning in life. When asked in an open-ended question what makes life meaningful, Americans were most likely to mention family, and in a closed-ended question they were most likely to report that they find “a great deal” of meaning in spending time with family. Responding to the open-ended question, Americans mentioned a plethora of sources after family: One-third brought up their career or job, nearly a quarter mentioned finances or money, and 1 in 5 cited their religious faith, friendships, or various hobbies and activities. Additional topics that were commonly mentioned included being in good health, living in a nice place, creative activities, and learning or education. Many other topics also arose, such as doing good and belonging to a group or community. 

Invigorating Civic Life Improving Public Policy
The front facade of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC.

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