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Scottish citizens' perceptions of the credibility of online political 'facts' in the 'fake news' era: an exploratory study.

Baxter, Graeme; Marcella, Rita; Walicka, Agnieszka


Graeme Baxter

Agnieszka Walicka


The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a study that explored public perceptions of the credibility of 'facts and figures' contained within five social media posts produced by political parties in Scotland. The study consisted of an online survey conducted in Spring 2017 (n=538). Respondents were asked to gauge the reliability of 'facts' contained within the posts, to provide reasons for their answers, and to indicate how they might go about confirming or debunking the figures. Less than half the sample believed the posts’ content would be reliable. Credibility perceptions were influenced by various factors, including: a lack of cited sources; concerns about bias or spin; a lack of detail, definitions, or contextual information; personal political allegiance and trust; negative campaign techniques; personal experience of policy issues; and more intuitive judgements. Only small numbers admitted that they would not know how to find out more about the issues, or would be disinclined to look further. The majority appeared confident in their own abilities to find further information, yet were vague in describing their search strategies. Relatively little empirical research has been conducted exploring the perceived credibility of political or government information online. It is believed that this is the first such study to have specifically investigated the Scottish political arena.


BAXTER, G., MARCELLA, R. and WALICKA, A. 2019. Scottish citizens’ perceptions of the credibility of online political 'facts' in the 'fake news' era: an exploratory study. Journal of documentation [online], 75(5), pages 1100-1123. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 24, 2019
Online Publication Date Sep 9, 2019
Publication Date Oct 31, 2019
Deposit Date Mar 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date Sep 9, 2019
Journal Journal of documentation
Print ISSN 0022-0418
Electronic ISSN 1758-7379
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 75
Issue 5
Pages 1100-1123
Keywords Information behaviour; Credibility; Fake news; Political parties; Scotland; Alternative facts
Public URL


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