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News literacy is even more important in an election year

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Posted at 3:42 PM, Jan 27, 2022

COLORADO — Information is everywhere in this day and age, and it can be easy for people to fall into the traps of misinformation and disinformation.

This can especially be true as we enter another election year as voters work to find out accurate information on candidates running for office.

"We all are subjected to what's called "confirmation bias" where we just want to seek out information that confirms our preexisting positions," Joshua Dunn, Political Science Department Chair at University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) said.

Whether it's a story about an elected official on the opposite side of the spectrum, or a story about a political party, keeping confirmation bias in check is important to understand what's true and what's not.

"If you see something that seems too good to be true, that it confirms everything that you already believe, try to find someone who disagrees with you and see what they have to say and if they're providing any real evidence or arguments for it," Dunn said.

Dunn adds that news organizations are a good place to start, and you can follow that up by knowing the sources and studies being used in news reports.

Dunn encourages people to also seek out varying perspectives when it comes to politics.

"It doesn't mean you have to change your mind, but it's just to easy to find information that you agree with," Dunn said, "I think the best way to navigate it is to make certain that you're receiving information from different sources and from sources on different sides of the political spectrum."

The News Literacy Project outlines the importance of checking confirmation bias and how quickly information can be shared by those who share similar viewpoints.

A survey done by the Gallup/Knight Foundation of more than 19,000 Americans show fewer than a third share information with people who have opposing views.

Research is being done on the impacts of social media and sharing information.

"There is the risk that people will put themselves in these information cocoons so they'll only have Facebook friends who agree with them or follow people on Twitter they agree, and again I think it's still fairly early for us to know what the broader impacts of this will be," Dunn said.

There are also many websites adding to transparency in politics and local government including understanding who's paying for ads and what lobbyists are behind pieces of legislation.

Here's a list of some websites to get started.

Colorado TRACER (campaign finance)

Colorado Legislative Website

Federal Election Commission
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