There is a lot of interest in how much fake news people are absorbing, but we are a lot more concerned about how much real news people are not absorbing. Stemming both undocumented and legal immigration is a major part of President Trump’s platform, so it is unsurprising that the vast majority of Americans think that undocumented immigrants are streaming into the United States; they are not. Despite public budget battles, the closest approximation is that people have no idea how much the US spending on major portions of the budget.
The number of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the Unites States fell by about 600,000 from 2009 to 2014, but 63 percent of Americans thought the raw number increased. Only 7 percent thought the number decreased by 500,000 or more, with just 11 percent stating the quantity decreased over this period. Not surprising, 76 percent of Republicans thought the quantity increased and 54 percent of Democrats.
We asked about the percent of the federal budget that went to four key things (Defense, Social Security + Medicare, Medicaid, and State + foreign aid) in 2016, but the results are so noisy, it is hard to even report them. Beyond the general confusion, people assume the USA spends way more on foreign aid and diplomacy than the they do, and way less on entitlements for older and disabled Americans. The median respondent though that defense is 20-25% (it was 15%), Social Security + Medicare was 15-20% (it was 38%), State + foreign aid is 10-15% (it was 1.5%), and Medicaid is 15-20% (it was 9%).
The PredictWise and Pollfish survey received responses from 1,200 people on March 20 through online and in-app polling methods. We do not report margin of error because we do not believe it can be accurately estimated.
Tobias Konitzer is a PhD candidate in communication at Stanford University. Find him on Twitter @KonitzerTobias.
Sam Corbett-Davies is a PhD candidate at Stanford University in computer science. Find him on Twitter @SCorbettDavies.
David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research. Find him on Twitter @DavMicRot.