Emerging survey results show a lack of trust in Scottish political parties’ ‘facts’
A team from Robert Gordon University (RGU), carrying out a survey to determine if fake news and alternative facts are a feature of Scottish politics, have announced that in light of the announcement of a snap election they will keep the online survey open until the June 8 election day to gather information in a wider UK context.
Professor Rita Marcella and Dr Graeme Baxter, specialists in Information Management, and MSc placement student Agnieszka Walicka from RGU’s School of Creative and Cultural Business have been conducting research to explore people’s opinions on the reliability of information presented as ‘facts’ by political figures in Scotland.
The online survey closed on April 17 but has now been reopened in response to the announcement.
Professor Marcella said: “The survey has already revealed some interesting results about the electorate’s perceptions of the political use of facts and by keeping the survey open we will be able to explore the arguably higher levels of public interest in political facts during the cut and thrust of a general election campaign.”
The emerging results of the original survey show that the Scottish public is quite sceptical about the reliability of information presented as ‘facts’ by political figures in Scotland.
People were invited to comment on five images containing various ‘facts and figures’ posted on social media by the major political parties in Scotland. To date, it has received almost 500 responses.
Of the five images, those posted by the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour have inspired the least confidence, with over half of the respondents believing the ‘facts and figures’ to be ‘quite’ or ‘very’ unreliable. In contrast, the image posted by the Scottish Greens has been regarded as the most trustworthy, with almost half (48%) of respondents describing it as ‘quite’ or ‘very’ reliable.
Unsurprisingly, the respondents’ personal political allegiances appear to play a part in their views on the reliability of the information presented. For example, while just 45% of the overall respondents have described the image posted by the SNP as ‘very’ or ‘quite’ reliable, this figure rises to 77% amongst those who have indicated an alignment with the party.
Dr Baxter said: “Our respondents have been giving a lot of thought to assessing the credibility of the information being presented in these images. They suspect that a lot of the information presented is subject to bias and ‘spin’, and they are wary of figures presented without any reference to their original source.”
“Most have also been aware of terms such as ‘post-truth’, ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, and have given high-profile examples of what they regard as dubious political ‘facts’, such as Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Donald Trump’s inauguration attendance figures, and those appearing on the side of Vote Leave’s ‘Brexit bus’. Some have also acknowledged that they have been personally misled in the past by political ‘facts’.”
The survey can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RGUaltfacts. All responses will be completely anonymous.
The researchers are also currently conducting interviews with Aberdeen citizens that are exploring their perceptions of the credibility of political ‘facts’ in more detail.
For further information please contact Graeme Baxter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Release by Kate Yuill
Communications Officer | Business, Management and Law
Press and Media Enquiries