Barna on Fake News

Barna is an evangelical research group. As part of a wide-ranging survey, they included a couple of questions concerning our new “post-truth” world, “in which reality is relative and even the facts are open to interpretation.” One question addressed “credible news sources,” and the other social media. Of equal interest to the actual results is the fact that Barna failed to report results for evangelicals and other religious categories, contrary to their standard practice.

 barna credible sources

When asked to identify “a credible news source,” only 39% cite a reporter. Presumably this also applies to a newspaper or news station. Curiously, another 22% cite “a famous academic,” though these are analysts of news rather than sources of news. Presumably they are trusted to screen out fake news and other errors. Thus it appears that 61% rely on some objective form of expertise. On the other hand, 32% claim to reject all sources, and another 27% rely on personal contacts. That is 59% reject objective forms of expertise.

Something is wrong here. In part, the question is too vague. Thus if you are talking about sports news or financial news, I am sure that a much higher percentage would trust reporters. For politics and some other types of news, people are more likely to believe whatever they want to. These results might also reflect a general rejection of “elite” establishments like newspapers, etc.

 barna social media

This question presupposes that people attempt to verify news they receive on social media. I suspect many do not, and only follow those whose opinions they share. The 39% who claim they use multiple news sources to validate social media may be the same 39% who trusted reporters in the prior question. Curiously, there is no mention of using sites specializing in fact-checks.


Barna is an evangelical organization, and almost without exception, they break their results down by religious categories. They failed to do so here. I suspect this is because results for evangelicals are embarrassing. They are not “reality-oriented,” and I suspect that their degree of contempt for reporters and other objective authorities is alarming. I suspect the only outside “authority” they rely on is their pastor, who is assumed to have a pipeline to an omniscient God.