In America, the young find distinguishing fact from opinion easier than their elders

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The children are our future…


But my question – without reading the article, because lazy – is: is this due to a decline in ability to discern as we age, or is my generation just more gullible?

ETA apparently there’s around an 80% chance I’ll believe whatever answer you give me.


Doesn’t surprise me one bit. Baby boomers came up in a world where you could open a news paper or turn on the nightly news and get a pretty factual, fairly non-partisan look into what was happening in the world. Younger generations did not come up in this world. Corporations are trying to sell you something around every corner, everything is partisan and journalism has been defunded and turned into a shell of its former self.




Honestly, I think it’s a combination of the inevitable mental decline that happens as one ages, and a consequence of what I call the Dumbening; the ongoing intentional efforts of big business and big government to make the masses as ignorant and complacent as possible, thereby making them easier to manipulate and control.


I don’t think the generation of the Kennedy assassination, secret bombings in Cambodia, and the Vietnam war can be accused of lacking a health amount of skepticism.



Roughly the younger half of adults sorted by age, as opposed to the older half of adults. While it doesn’t bode well for the AARP crowd, it also doesn’t say much about people you might actually call “young”. It mostly just tells me that yep, senility is a thing, alright.


Ok, now show us the voting participation split by age group. Yep, there’s the problem.


Woah, don’t just read the headline. Look at the actual data they collected.

There are ten statements respondents were asked to categorize as opinion or fact.

Of the statements that actually are facts only three have a gap: is ss+medicare+medicaid the largest portion of the budget, immigrants have some rights, and Obama was born in the US. The other two: highest healthcare costs and isis lost territory are within 1% (margin of error on these appears to have been about 3%). Two of the ones showing a gap are going to be doubted in a very partisan way, the ss/medicare/medicaid is harder to say. I could imagine people thinking its the military or the debt or foreign aid or using a narrow definition of ‘the budget’.

Now the opinion statements. Two of the opinions are straight right wing orthodoxy (immigrants bad, government wasteful). Another is sort of american orthodoxy (democracy is best). But note the gap on every one of those is 12-14%. The other two, designed to appeal to the left (abortion should be mostly legal, minimum wage essential) have much much smaller gaps 4% and 0%.

So we are seeing big gaps when one might imagine right wing political views to tilt one’s categorization, and much smaller or even no gap when left wing political views might tilt ones categorization.

Am I correct in failing to find a breakdown by party affiliation at all anywhere in their report? Really want to avoid making that conclusion perhaps?


The true lasting impacts of the Cold War.


I thinks it’s because the older generation is more likely to watch TV and the younger generation is more likely to use the internet to find information. Old media is owned by what–3 or so major corporations? It’s in their best interest to defend the current power structure rather than deliver truth.


I think younger people understand that they’re living in a jungle of falsehoods and (in the absence of formal K-12 courses) have had to teach themselves media literacy to be more wary. Older people (i.e. those who aren’t digital natives or close enough) tend to be more complacent, and ascribe the same trustworthiness to on-line news sources that they do to TV news.

By the way, Pew offers a little quiz to test your ability to distinguish fact from opinion:

[5/5, 5/5. Shouldn’t be that difficult for most other BBers]


So … is this saying that there is no such thing as a moral fact? If I said “it is wrong to steal the children of refugees from their parents,” am I only expressing an opinion? Seems to me that I’m stating a fact and people who disagree are wrong.

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The incomprehensible inability of my in-laws to decipher opinion and hyperbole from fact bears this research out.


While this is a super affirmation of youth and condemnation of oldies, the sad fact is that less than half the US electorate of any age seem to be able to tell fact from opinion.


Pretty much, yeah, that’s not a fact. A fact is something where you can point to the real world and prove it true or untrue. Moral statements, while important, cannot be objectively proven.

I think this is an important distinction, because if you start allowing moral statements to be facts, anyone can start claiming any moral statement, no matter how repugnant, as indisputable fact. And, unlike with real facts, there’s no objective standard that can be used to prove these “moral” statements are not factual.

Rather than try to pretend morality can be seen as objective fact, how about we stop pretending like opinions can’t be evaluated? It doesn’t conflate what can be empirically proven and what cannot be, and it stops allowing assholes the refuge of “Well that’s my opinion, and I have a right to it!”


I learned this distinction in elementary school. So did my son. Maybe it just wasn’t on the curriculum pre-1960’s?

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In my experience with our daughter, children seem to be born with pretty decent BS detection firmware. I think older generations raised in authoritarian and/or religious households have had many of their natural instincts stunted or neutered to further the cause. My wife and I are trying to break that cycle, as I’m hoping is the case with most parents. Nothing our daughter can say is off limits or not worthy of an explanation from us, although the “ice cream truck” is just called “the music truck” for now. We have our reasons.


Surely that depends on what “moral” means? If, for example, morality is about the sentiment of the majority, you can have moral facts. Or, if morality hangs on the will of God, its factuality hangs on whether he is real and what he is like. Of course, our ability to verify these two moral criteria are quite different (you can poll a populace but not God), but they are still both matters of objective fact.