#disinformation #democracy #citizenship
Trust lies at the heart of the disinformation crisis, as citizens must decide which narratives to follow and whether to accept “alternative truths.” Therefore, trust in institutions that publish reliable information can act as a shield against disinformation. This comparative study investigates the role of trust in news media and political actors and general attitudes toward democracy in the willingness to spread disinformation (i.e., likes, shares, or comments). Findings of this study show that news media trust plays a subordinate role but that trust in social media news has a strong relationship with willingness to spread disinformation. In 2020, citizens in the United States and United Kingdom who had high trust in their governments were more willing to spread disinformation, whereas in France and Belgium, citizens who trusted opposition leaders were more likely to do so. Moreover, citizens who were satisfied with democracy appeared to be less vulnerable to disinformation, with the exception of those in the United States. Therefore, political actors bear great responsibility for the current (dis)information crisis because they can exploit citizens’ trust to their advantage.