As President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden prepare for their first head-to-head debate Tuesday night, most Americans say they want their preferred 2020 presidential candidate to always tell the truth on the debate stage, rather than simply saying what he needs to win the debate. However, Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to respond that their preferred candidate winning the debate was more important to them than that candidate always telling the truth.
The new NBCLX/YouGov poll, conducted of 3,190 Americans online from Sept. 25-28, found 83% of respondents who indicated they had a preferred presidential candidate said “always telling the truth in the debate” was more important than their candidate saying “what he needs to say to win the debate.” That includes 88% of those who identified as Democrats, compared to 81% who identified as independent and 75% who identified as Republicans.
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Eleven percent of all respondents - almost half of whom identified as independent – said they did not know which priority was more important to them or they did not have a preferred presidential candidate. The overall poll had a 2.5% margin of error, with a 2.8% margin of error for individual party breakdowns.
The poll found older Americans were slightly more likely than younger Americans to prioritize the truth over winning the debate, but young Americans were much more likely to say they didn’t know which priority they favored, as well as more likely to say they didn’t have a preferred candidate.
Eleven percent of Americans under 35 said they didn’t have a preferred candidate yet, compared to just 2% of respondents who were 55 or older.
Sharing disinformation on social media
The NBCLX/YouGov poll also asked respondents how important it was that the information and stories they share online are true. In an age where misinformation and disinformation are rampant on social media, Americans overwhelmingly say sharing only truthful posts is important to them – even if they aren’t good at actually modeling the behavior themselves.
Ninety-three percent of Americans said the accuracy of information and stories they share online is either very important (82%) or somewhat important (11%), compared to just 4% who said it wasn’t important. But no group indicated more of a priority on the truth than Americans who are 55 and older, of which 96% said truthful posts are either very important (87%) or somewhat important (9%).
For comparison, only 83% of Americans under 25 said the accuracy of the information and stories they post online is important, with 9% responding that it was not very important, and 4% responding it wasn’t important at all.
And when NBCLX/YouGov asked respondents how much time, on average, they spend confirming a story before sharing it on social media, a plurality of Americans said they either don’t ever share stories on social media (26%) or they spend more than five minutes per article/story (23%) confirming its accuracy.
Just 7% of respondents said they typically spend less than a minute confirming a story before sharing; 19% said they spend between 1 and 3 minutes confirming a story before sharing; and 18% said they spend between 3 and 5 minutes confirming a story before sharing. Results were similar across all party lines.