MANILA — College students— those who make up a significant voting bloc in the 2022 polls— were found to be struggling to spot fake news amid well-oiled misinformation campaigns on social media, with supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte "more likely" to fall victim, a recent study of a new local pollster showed.
"What could spell as disaster is when fake news and disinformation could shape and influence the political decisions of Filipino youth," said Imelda Deinla, convenor of Boses, Opinyon, Siyasat, at Siyensya para sa Pilipinas (Boses Pilipinas) during a webinar Wednesday.
Deinla presented the result of their survey conducted from May to June, 2021, with over 7,700 respondents from colleges and universities, mostly 20 to 21 years old.
For the study, respondents were first asked to assess their ability to spot fake news, before being made to answer the fake news quiz.
Over 60 percent of respondents were “somehow confident” in spotting fake news, but 67 percent of them scored poorly in the fake news quiz.
"We see quite a troubling picture where only 14 percent passed or 1,084 out of 7,744 respondents. May malaking mismatch sa kanilang self-rated confidence kumpara sa kanilang nakuhang scores. Ibig sabihin, 'yung kumpiyansa sa sarili ay di nag-translate sa abilidad," noted Deinla, a former fellow at the Australian National University and now professor at the Ateneo School of Government, a collaborator in the research.
Deinla cited possible reasons for respondents' poor scores in the fake news quiz, which include political polarization; higher trust in Facebook; lower trust in mainstream media; and partisanship.
"The continuous exposure to Facebook is definitely correlated sa lower scores," she says.
Digging deeper into the role of partisanship in the students' susceptibility to fake news, Boses researchers divided them into 2 groups to represent the current political spectrum.
"By using snowball sampling and binomial regression analysis, we can correlate political polarization with the capability of youth to determine real news and fake news," Deinla explained.
They used Vice President Leni Robredo and Duterte to represent the 2 opposing sides.
"Duterte represents populist ideology... Si Leni ay pwede ring i-brand na representatibo ng oligarkiya dahil sa kanyang previous association with past administration na pinaratangan na kumakatawan sa interes ng oligarkiya," Deinla said.
(Leni can also be branded as a representative of the oligarchy because of her previous association with the past administration and having been accused of representing the interests of the oligarchy.)
Their study found that Duterte supporters were less successful in determining what is legitimate and fake news.
"Yung mas may mataas na suporta kay Pangulong Duterte ay mas may mababang kapasidad (those with high support for President Duterte had lower capacity) to identify both real and fake news. Those who have high scores for VP have higher accuracy in [the same test]," she said.
Deinla compared their findings to similar data on Republican supporters in the US.
According to Ateneo School of Government Dean Ronald Mendoza, the survey should spark efforts in combating fake news especially among the youth.
"Ang purpose ng innovation na ito ay para makatulong tayo lalo na sa mga kabataan para magsimula tayo ng efforts to combat fake news," Mendoza told the webinar.
(The purpose of this innovation is to help the youth and start efforts to combat fake news.)
As of Oct. 18 data from the Commission on Elections, at least 32.7 million or over 50 percent of the more than 61 million registered voters are considered "youth."
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez earlier said that the youth can dictate the result of the 2022 elections "if it gets its act together."