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Young People Worry About Divided America, Fake News


President Donald Trump's tweeter feed is photographed on a computer screen in Washington on April 3, 2017. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)


Young Americans believe nearly half of the news shared on Facebook is false and President Donald Trump tweets too much. They also want to help unite America but find public service unappealing.

Those are among the findings from recent interviews with 2,600 young Americans -- aged 18 - 29 -- by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

The poll, released Tuesday, found 81 percent of young people questioned by Harvard use Facebook.

But most consider a lot of the news on Facebook to be “untrue.” Earlier this month, Facebook said it is removing accounts of people who send out “fake news” stories.

The demo booth at Facebook's annual developer conference last week in San Jose, California.
The demo booth at Facebook's annual developer conference last week in San Jose, California.

The poll also found that 68 percent of young people believe President Trump tweets too much. Only 11 percent say his tweets are “appropriate.”

Mixed messages on voting, public service work

In the 2016 presidential election, only half of 18-to-29 year-olds voted, according to a report by the Brookings Institution.

But 74 percent of young people polled by Harvard say voting is one of the best ways to produce change. Still, only one in four young Americans say that public service work is appealing. Public service work is often done by government workers.

Rhea Malik is a Harvard University senior who worked on the poll. She said it might be that fewer students find public service appealing because they have less trust in America’s elected officials.

Divisions in America are a problem

Another finding by Harvard researchers is that nearly 60 percent of young Americans want to do what they can to help unite and not further divide America.

On Monday, former President Barack Obama said changes in the way people use media allow them to read and listen to only those who agree with their own opinions. He said that adds to divisions in America and makes it more difficult to govern.

Some of the poll results are surprising.

Many young people have protested the use of deadly force by police against African-Americans and other minorities.

But nearly half of young Americans polled by Harvard said that ending the “anti-police atmosphere” and “empowering” law enforcement will “make America better.”

Police and protesters face off in Baton Rouge, La, last year over the shooting of a black man by police, followed by a fatal attack on three police officers. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)
Police and protesters face off in Baton Rouge, La, last year over the shooting of a black man by police, followed by a fatal attack on three police officers. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)

What do young people think of President Trump?

Nearly half of young people told Harvard that temporarily banning visas from majority Muslim nations would make America worse. That compares to one in four young people who say that such a policy would make America better.

President Trump has issued two orders temporarily banning travel from some Muslim majority nations. Both were blocked by federal judges.

On trade, three out of five young Americans say they agree with Trump’s plan to end unfair trade practices with other nations.

Who young people hang out with differs by party

The poll found that young Democratic and Republican supporters have relationships with different groups of people.

The poll found young voters who call themselves Republican have more close relationships with gun owners, police officers and military veterans than Democrats.

Young people who call themselves Democrats have more close relationships with Muslims and people who are LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning of their sexuality) than Republicans.

John Della Volpe is polling director at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. He is happy that nearly 60 percent of young people told Harvard researchers that they want to help unite the country.

He said, “While we spend a lot of time talking about what divides us, younger millennials are seeking leaders who will unite us.” He said that is “both good government and good politics.”

Bruce Alpert reported this story VOA’s Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

poll - n. an activity in which several or many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to get information about what most people think about something

post - v. to add a message or news story to social media

fake - adj. not real, false

appropriate - adj. right or suited for some purpose or situation

millennials - n. generally, people between ages 18-29

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