Fact: a piece of information presented as having objective reality
Opinion: a belief stronger than an impression and less strong than positive knowledge
Merriam-Webster Dictionary knows the difference between a fact and an opinion. Do you? According to a study by the Pew Research Center, only about one of every four Americans has a solid grasp on the difference. And in this fast-paced information age, that’s important. The study comes at a time when claims of “fake news” fly and fabrications circulate on social media faster than they can be fact-checked.
The Pew survey polled 5,035 adult Americans. Participants were given 10 statements from news stories. Half were verifiable facts and half were opinions. Those surveyed were asked to declare each statement as a fact or an opinion.
Can you classify this: “Democracy is the greatest form of government”? How about this: “Immigrants who were born in the U.S. illegally have some rights under the Constitution”?
According to the Pew findings, Americans tend to label as facts those statements they agree with. They label as opinions those they disagree with. Political bias does shape agreement. But both conservatives and liberals alike were more likely to call a news statement a “fact” if it appealed to their side.
About 26 percent in the survey correctly identified all five factual statements. Opinions were slightly easier to recognize, with 35 percent correctly classifying those. But roughly a quarter of respondents got all or most of the statements wrong. And if someone thought a statement was a fact, then that person also considered the statement accurate and trustworthy—even if, in reality, the statement was an opinion.
What does this say about how Americans process information that forms actions? Psychologists say that feelings shape beliefs and beliefs shape actions. But feelings are not always trustworthy. The Lord, in Jeremiah 17:9, specifies this to us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
People too often twist words and give partial truths to manipulate others’ responses. It all began in the Garden of Eden when our enemy did that very thing, saying to Eve, “Did God really say…?” Eve knew what God had said. But her feelings won. She wanted to believe something different—and so she acted badly.
Christians have both the responsibility and the God-given resources to evaluate information and emotions that shape beliefs and actions. God’s word and His Holy Spirit can expose falsehoods and lead in right actions.
Therefore, in all your ways acknowledge Him. He will guide your actions and make your paths straight.
That’s a fact.