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Who Voters Trust for Election Information in 2024

A record number of voters will head to the polls this year, with more than 50 countries comprising half the planet’s population due to hold national elections in 2024. This coincides with the wide and growing availability of sophisticated AI technology that will supercharge misinformation and cyberthreats.

To limit the spread of inaccurate or deceptive election information, we must understand how Americans get their information to begin with and how they feel about it. To answer these questions, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the States United Democracy Center, and the Integrity Institute joined together to administer a national survey exploring Americans’ election information habits.

We show how Americans consume, share, and assess election news in a crucial election year, uncovering new learnings after a similar survey was conducted by BPC in advance of the 2022 midterm election.

This poll was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of BPC between December 13- 15, 2023 among a sample of 2,203 adults.1

Most Americans have confidence in the 2024 presidential election. They are more confident that votes in their community and state will be counted accurately than votes across the country. 

A majority of respondents (69%) are confident their votes will be counted accurately in the 2024 election. This includes majorities of Republicans (60% very or somewhat confident), Independents (59%), and Democrats (85%).

Across all groups, Americans are most confident about an accurate count of votes in their community (74%). Just 64% are confident in an accurate count across the country.

This difference is most pronounced among Republicans. Only 50% of Republicans express confidence that votes will be counted accurately at the national level compared with 66% at the local level—a gap of 16 percentage points.

The confidence gap between local and national counting is an opportunity for voter education about how the counting and certification process works at all levels of our election system. While election officials may be doing a good job building confidence in their community, this gap shows the need for national and state media outlets, candidates, and political elites to help voters understand the robust processes and security measures that are present in every state.

When asked about election-related concerns, Americans point to misleading election information, violence after Election Day, and attempts to overturn election results.

We asked respondents how concerned they were about various issues around the 2024 election. Their top three concerns were inaccurate or misleading information about elections, violence or civil unrest after Election Day, and attempts to overturn the results of a fair election.

Inaccurate or misleading election information was named as a concern by 72% of respondents. This concern is most common among Republicans (75% very or somewhat concerned), and slightly less common among Democrats (72%).

Violence or civil unrest after the election was listed as a concern by 67% of respondents. The highest concern is among Democrats (73% very or somewhat concerned), but violence and unrest are a concern for solid majorities of Republicans (62%) and Independents (63%).

Finally, a majority of respondents (65%) are very or somewhat concerned that there will be an attempt to overturn the results of a fair election. While majorities of Republicans (60%) and Independents (61%) are very or somewhat concerned, the highest figure is among Democrats (72%).

As election officials, media, and civil society prepare communication plans ahead of the election, they can help mitigate voters’ concerns by highlighting authoritative information sources early; educating voters about how election officials and local leaders including law enforcement work together to keep elections safe; and explaining the procedures in place to make sure votes are counted and certified.

Americans learn about elections primarily through television and social media.

We asked U.S. adults what sources (e.g., television, social media, and search engines) and what people or groups (e.g., news media professionals, candidates, and election officials) they look to for information about elections.

When it comes to sources of information, Americans most often learn about elections from television and social media. A plurality (43%) of adults look to national television, followed by social media (36%) and local or regional television (34%).

When it comes to the individuals or groups that they learn from on those channels, adults look most often to news media professionals, commentators, and candidates.

This data reveals five key findings about Americans’ election information preferences.

(1) Election officials face an uphill battle breaking into a crowded media environment.

Just 18% of Americans state that they would look to their local or county election administrators for information about elections. This puts election officials fifth behind news media professionals, commentators, candidates, and fact checking organizations. This is a notable decline from BPC’s 2022 survey in which state and local election officials were voters’ top ranked choice for certain election information, alongside search engines.

In 2022, we asked adults who they look to for information about how elections are run and how to register and vote. This time, the frame was broader: we asked just about where respondents would go for information about elections. We believe this paints a truer picture of American’s information behaviors. While it is sensible that Americans would self-report looking to their election official for information about how to vote, this is only one part of the broader election ecosystem. Opinions about election legitimacy are ultimately influenced by a combination of voting experiences and communication from political and media elites.

The wide variety of sources and individuals that Americans look to for election information not only dilutes the authority of election officials, but makes it harder for any single source to serve as a definitive guide on election matters. That is one potential explanation for why confidence in vote counting is lower across the country than it is locally: while voters may look to their local or state officials for information that affects their community, they look to other messengers for information about elections at large.

Election officials are the best authoritative source for election information, but their low visibility underscores the need for news media, commentators, and candidates to elevate factual election information to meet voters where they are.

(2) Americans are less likely to select AI-enabled chatbots as a source of election information than any other source.

Just 2% of Americans said they would look to AI-enabled chatbots as a source of election information, ranking below any other information source (including “Don’t know/no opinion”).

This makes clear that Americans are yet to see generative AI tools as legitimate information sources, alleviating some concerns that unreliable generative AI interfaces, prone to hallucinations, will significantly impact voters’ access to trustworthy election information this year.

While adults may not seek out information on AI-enabled chatbots, they may not always know when they’re interfacing with one, particularly as campaigns explore ways to integrate generative AI into operations for the first time. Additionally, AI-powered misinformation and targeted digital persuasion campaigns remain a big concern.

(3) Google, Facebook, and YouTube are the most sought out online platforms for election news and information.

44% of adults stated that they would look to Google for election news and information, followed by Facebook (31%) and YouTube (29%). Nearly a quarter of adults (23%) said they would not use online platforms for election news and information.

(4) Americans consume election information passively.

Americans’ top three sources of election information are passive: Americans are more likely to learn about elections while scrolling social media or watching a news channel than proactively  searching for election information.

Additionally, a plurality (41%) of adults said the primary way they engage with election content on online platforms is through browsing or reading posts. Only a small subset engages through active forms of engagement, such as commenting (16%), sharing content (10%), or creating and posting their own content (6%).

(5) Credibility and reliability of a source is the most important factor when seeking out information about elections.

In an era marked by widespread mis- and dis-information, Americans’ appetite for authoritative election information is strong. Adults of all political affiliations rank credibility and reliability as the most important factor when seeking information about elections.

Nearly half of adults have had positive experiences encountering information they were previously unaware of on social media, while encountering misinformation is the most common negative experience.

Users’ experiences encountering election content on social media is not unilaterally negative. 38% of U.S. adults feel positive when they see posts about elections online, while 30% feel neutral and just 20% feel negative. Another 8% actively avoid election-related posts.

Adults report that online discussions of elections have helped connect them with new information, like-minded community, and humor about political events. On the flipside, adults report that online discussions of elections also bring negative experiences, including misinformation and disagreements.

Americans think social media platforms should be doing more to protect users from harmful content.

As the importance of social media in the information habits of Americans continues to increase, many social media companies have been conducting significant layoffs. Over the past two years, these layoffs have impacted integrity, trust and safety, and policy teams, who are tasked with minimizing the reach of harmful content as well as interfacing with civil society organizations, including organizations supporting elections.

However, a plurality of Americans want to see social media companies play a more active role in protecting users from harms on their platforms. Only 15% of Americans believe that social media platforms are doing too much to protect users from harmful content, in contrast to 43% of Americans who would like to see social media platforms do more to protect users and 29% who feel platforms should maintain their current efforts.

Most adults agree false or deceptive elections content should be handled by social media platforms and the government in tandem. 

A majority of Americans (61%) believe social media platforms should take some responsibility for false or deceptive election content. A plurality of Americans (33%) believe social media platforms and the government should share responsibility for handling false or deceptive election content. 

Widespread layoffs of integrity, policy, and trust and safety staff by tech companies and decreased cooperation between the government and social media platforms in identifying foreign influence operations could create challenges for platforms to maintain adequate guardrails against misinformation.

This challenge arises despite a record-breaking year of global elections and significant belief among Americans that social media platforms should maintain or strengthen their protections for users from both harmful content and false elections content.

While there is no strong consensus across political parties on who should be most responsible for protecting users, Republicans (18%) are more likely than Democrats (5%) to think neither are responsible. 

A majority of adults (52%) say they engage in political discussions or share political content in messaging platforms, a medium uniquely susceptible to unchecked misinformation. 

A majority of adults (52%) say they engage in political discussions or share political content in messaging platforms at least some of the time, while 43% say they never do. Adults are equally likely to observe (49%) as participate (49%) in political groups or chat communities within messaging platforms, with engagement more likely among younger populations.

According to The Brookings Institution, the privacy that attracts many users to encrypted messaging applications (like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp) also makes them “a useful vector for disinformation: they offer a means of spreading untraceable claims to users via trusted contacts in a secure environment.”

While discussions of election misinformation often focus on social media platforms, the widespread use of messaging platforms for sharing political content—and the unique challenges posed by encrypted messaging applications—indicates that more attention needs to be paid to content that spreads through this channel and what companies are doing to combat the spread of inaccurate information.

Political ads are already everywhere. Americans are indifferent about whether they should be allowed on social media platforms.

Content moderation is often a buzzworthy topic during election years, especially in regard to political advertising on social media platforms.

A majority (73%) of adults have seen or heard political advertisements in the past month. They most commonly report seeing these ads on national TV (54%), social media (47%), and local TV (44%).

Adults are more likely to think it is acceptable (37%) than unacceptable (24%) for social media platforms to allow political advertisements on their platform. These results do not vary significantly by party.

1The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, gender, race, educational attainment, region, gender by age, and race by educational attainment. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

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