The Susceptibility of Singaporeans Towards Fake News

Ipsos study finds that while 8 in 10 Singaporeans are confident that they can spot 'fake news', 45% admit that they have incorrectly believe 'fake news' stories

Key findings:

  • 79% of Singaporeans are 'somewhat' or 'very confident' in their ability to detect 'fake news'. Rates of confidence are higher among males, and those with a university degree.
  • When presented with five 'fake news' headlines and asked if they were real or not, 91% incorrectly identified one or more as being real. There is no correlation between confidence and ability to detect 'fake news'.
  • 45% have falsely believed a news story was real until they found out otherwise. Levels of vulnerability are higher among those aged 15-24 (55%).

In an interest to better understand the susceptibility of Singaporeans towards fake news, Ipsos, global independent marker research agency, ran a nationally representative online survey in July-August 2018, among 750 Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents aged 15-65 years.

The survey findings follow.

Singaporeans' ability to identify 'Fake News'

When asked the extent to which they are confident in their ability to distinguish legitimate and accurate news, fake news false news and alternative facts, eight in ten (79%) Singaporeans are at least somewhat confident in their ability. Younger Singaporeans are more confident than older Singaporeans; as are university graduates, compared to those with lower levels of educational attainment.

Despite this confidence, Singaporeans are relatively inaccurate in identifying 'fake news'. When shown a series of ten headlines from digital channels and asked to indicate which ones were 'fake news', four in ten (43%) correctly identified two or fewer 'fake news' headlines out of five. 91% incorrectly identified one or more as being real. There is no correlation between people's confidence in their ability to detect fake news and their actual ability.

The survey also asked respondents if they considered themselves a 'newsie' (someone who is obsessed with staying up to date on what's happening in the news). Interestingly, the 27% of Singaporeans who do not consider themselves to be a 'newsie' were significantly more likely to have done better (66% correctly identified three or more out of five) than those who considered themselves 'newsies' (54% correctly identified three or more out of five).

In addition, almost half (45%0) of Singaporeans agree that they have been taken in by fake news in the past - that they have believed a news story was real until they later discovered was fake. Younger Singaporeans aged 15-24 are particularly susceptible, with more than half (55%) of them admitting to this.

Personal opinion and its bearing on identification of 'Fake News'

When asked to what extent they agreed with the statement "If I disagree with a news story, it is likely fake", more than one quarter (28%) agreed. Singaporeans with lower levels of education attainment - Secondary School or lower - were significantly more likely to agree with this statement (35%).

Furthermore, more than four in ten (43%) of all Singaporeans indicate that they trust news that they agree with. This belief is more commonplace among males (47%), and less common among those aged 35-44 (35%).

Source of news

Singaporeans derive their news from a wide variety of media. Online sites (including social media) are the primary sources of information for many Singaporeans; Facebook is the most commonly accessed (60%), followed by social media generally (53%) and newspapers' websites (52%). In addition, more than 4 in 10 (44%) indicated that they consumed news shared with them via WhatsApp in the month preceding the survey.

Fewer indicated that they get their news from traditional media sources such as broadcast/cable TV news (38%), news radio (30%), and talk radio (14%).

News media accessed by Singaporeans

Trust and confidence in news sources

In terms of their trust and confidence in these news sources, a majority of Singaporeans report having 'a fair amount' of trust and confidence in traditional news media (60%), while 23% have 'a great deal' of trust. Hence, despite the fact that most Singaporeans accessed the news more frequently via non-traditional channels, there are nonetheless higher levels of trust in traditional news media.

The extent to which Singaporeans trust the news the access via traditional and non-traditional channels differs according to their demographic profile. Males are significantly more likely to trust digital channels, including: online-only news publications and social media (34%); Twitter (30%); and WhatsApp (29%). On the other hand, older Singaporeans - those aged 45-65 - trust traditional sources more, including print and news radio.

Singaporeans are relatively reliant upon social media as a source of information. However, the extent to which they trust news stories accessed on social media is contingent upon who shares it.

Traditional Singapore news media companies (59% 'more trusting') and Singapore Government Ministries and Statutory Boards (50% 'more trusting') are the most trusted sources on social media. On the other hand, sponsored posts (39% 'less trusting') have the least credibility in the eyes of Singaporeans.

Important factors when Singaporeans consume news

While majority of Singaporeans value veracity of the news above all else (77%), 14% place greater weight on the news's ability to evoke certain emotions in them, while a smaller group 99%) appreciate contents' alignment with their personal opinions.

Certain demographic groups in Singapore are more likely than others to prioritise the truthfulness of the news. Females (81%) and those aged 55-65 (86%) are significantly more likely to value veracity of the news above other factors. On the other hand, males (11%) and those aged 15-24 (14%) are significantly more likely to consider alignment with their own opinions to be more important.

Robert McPhedran, Associate Research Director, Ipsos in Singapore said: "This research corroborates the Government's strong concern with respect to fake news. Despite their high levels of confidence, all Singaporeans - irrespective of educational attainment and media consumption habits - find it difficult to discern between real and fake news. Given the proliferation of digital media in Singapore and the dire consequence of 'fake news' globally, this is indeed a serious social issue."


Technical notes about the study:

  • The survey was conducted online between 30 July 2018 and 2 August 2018, among a nationally representative sample of n=750 Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents aged 15-65 years old.
  • The data has been weighted by (age, gender and ethnicity) were employed to ensure the sample's composition reflects the overall population distribution, based on Singapore Department of Statistics population estimates.
  • The precision of online surveys is measured using a credible interval. In this case, the results reported are accurate to +/- 4.1  percentage points of the views and perspectives of all Singaporeans aged 15-65 (at 95% confidence). Credible intervals are wider among subsets of the population.