Poll Results September 2021

The Importance of Truth

Over the last few years there has been a lot of talk about the abundance of “fake news” and “alternative facts” – a development sometimes described as a “crisis of truth”. This is often linked to the rise of the internet and social media, a decreased interest in traditional media, and a lack of trust in scientific experts. It is also described as a threat to democracy. The following questions are presented in a yes/no format. This means that we ask you to give simple answers to complex questions, which might be very hard to do. We therefore encourage you to elaborate on your answer after each question. Your ideas are extremely valuable!
Question 1

Do you believe that the internet makes it harder or easier to access reliable information?

87,5% Easier

12,5% Harder

Elaborated answers

Harder. There might be lots of fake news, lies and misconception among the reliable information.

Easier. Because many social networks on the internet can serve as sources of news. The diversity of news sources thus makes the internet a more reliable source of news and information.

Easier. It is easier to access reliable information because it is readily available for everyone and you can possibly search for information through different reliable platforms. At the same time it’s easy to be the receiver of misinformation but everyone has the tools to make their own research.

Easier. I believe that the internet makes it easier to access reliable information. However, this only works if you know what you are looking for, if you know which sources are reliable. For example, some social media networks (such as Facebook) use algorithms, and many use bots to spread unreliable information / fake news.

Easier. I think it is debatable question, however I can say that Internet has helped me a lot on things I want.

Easier. The internet is so accessible. Once people know how to use it effectively it can used as a reliable tool.

Easier. However, there are nuances to this. Easier if there isn’t censorship from the host nation. In addition, it all depends on how we access the internet and how things are promoted. For example, let’s say you online and you see that some searches have been promoted by ads – this highlights the power of advertising and monetary gain (from the internet companies, etc.) from accepting these payments to promote such content. (i.e. Google search results which are actually ads which have been promoted).

Easier. Online you truly have access to a lot of information which is not always correct. However if you know which websites are reliable and where to search for the right facts & peer reviewed studies, you can find out a lot.

Harder. Too much information; usually you need to pay for the reliable sources (the way for newspapers to survive); from what you listen to what you see can be manipulated in a very sophisticated way, etc

Question 2

Do you believe that it is indispensable for democracy that citizens share a common set of “truths”, that is, agree on basic factual statements about the world? Examples of such statements could be “the earth is a globe”, “Donald Trump lost the US presidential election in 2020”, or “carbon emissions cause climate change”. Or, do you believe that democracy could work even if citizens have major disagreements about such factual statements?

62,5% Agreement indispensable

37,5% Disagreement possible

Elaborated answers

Agreement indispensable. Although everyone has the right to their own opinion, if citizens do not agree on a core set of values, they will be in conflict and it may be difficult to make decisions, such as in a citizen’s assembly.

Disagreement possible. I think everyone should have the freedom to believe in what they want to as long as it doesn’t affect their contribution to the society.

Agreement indispensable. If citizens disagree on the pillars of democracy this will undermine the democracy itself. Once we stop sharing a common view, other views will be stronger and rule.

Disagreement possible. It is possible to have different opinions in a democracy, as long as someone’s opinion isn’t forced on another. Some facts can be objectively proved, like that the earth is globe, so if a person wants to believe otherwise they should present actual proof but it’s also part of their right to think so, as long as it isn’t forced on others. Generally things aren’t black and white, there can be many interpretations of situations and actions, so a democracy has to respect the freedom of everyone and provide a safe space for different opinions to be heard.

Agreement indispensable. Democracy struggles to work effectively if people cannot work together based on facts – this is something that has always allowed us to progress because we could agree and put in real work based on those sets of facts.

Disagreement possible. Despite the fact all basic factual statements should be equal to everybody, democracy should protect the freedom of speech so it must work even with major disagreements between citizens.

Agreement indispensable. This is a difficult question, because we don’t want to impose certain beliefs and say that we must agree with them (i.e. authoritarian). However, I do believe that most people that do engage with democracy properly and have the right means to do research (again, people in their everyday lives may be too busy to do this, however, in theory if they had the time and means) would agree with such basic factual statements.

Agreement indispensable. A full working democracy is only achievable with educated and intelligent people in my opinion.

Agreement indispensable. I think it won’t work ’cause the ones who don’t believe in these statements could boycott democracy and its values to prove they’re right.

The number of respondents to this survey was 24, in the ages of 16 to 26 and with a gender distribution of 75% female and 25% male.