NEW YORK—A new study conducted by a New York marketing firm concluded that more than 50% of attendees of local sporting events were unable to distinguish between real and fake news items, one of the worst scores among similar such studies around the country.
After the recent election of Donald Trump amidst a flurry of fake news stories circulating on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, new attention is being paid to the public's ability to identify trustworthy news sources. Over a period of two weeks, more than 4,000 participants at Metropolitan-area sporting venues completed tasks designed to measure their ability to identify trusted news sources. Fewer than 45% were able to reliably choose articles from credible sources, even with the aid of labels that articles were "sponsored by" companies or blue checkmarks denoting verified accounts. New York Islanders fans, in particular, performed poorly in tests of their ability to recognize fraudulent news items, scoring worse than the national average of middle- and high-school students.
"We were shocked at the results. It's vaguely terrifying to know so much of the New York population is functionally stupid," said Brian Abbottsford, director of Strategy Brands NY's sports division and one of the conductors of the study. "But the market implications are tremendous."
Matt Peuchet, another executive at the firm, echoed Abbottsford's sentiment, adding, "What we're seeing is the total descent into a world where fact has little-to-no value—that the median New York area fan is unable to distinguish sources in a way that basically constitutes illiteracy in the 21st century."
When asked if any trends had emerged from their data, Peuchet said, "We're noticing some distinctions between the sports. Baseball fans are used to in-broadcast advertisements, football fans are almost uniformly less likely to read beyond the headline."
And between local teams of the same sport? Peuchet, a professed Rangers fan, laughs. "Participants at Islanders games, which also skewed the youngest of the three hockey teams, were by far the dumbest. They scored almost 20 points lower on average than Rangers fans, who were around the 55% range. Our study showed that Islanders fans are basically infants in terms of distinguishing truth from fiction. But what do you expect from a team that once sold their team to a total fraud?" an apparent reference to John Spano, a con-man who, for a short time in 1996, bought controlling interest of the Islanders franchise before being exposed by the NHL.
As of publishing, the Islanders and their stupid fans were unreachable for comment as they prepared for their 1:00 (Pacific) matinée game against the San Jose Sharks.