It’s pretty easy to tell facts from opinions. And that’s just a fact. Or, wait … is it? Maybe not. In any case, it’s an ability that has become more important to cultivate than ever before. Fortunately, there’s a test you can take to gauge your own opinion-sniffing abilities — and according to the Pew Research Center, if you’re under the age of 50, you’ll probably do pretty well.
Facts and Feelings
Want to take the test? Here you go. A word of warning: the test asks you to tell which statements are factual in nature, regardless of if they’re true or not. For example, “The earth is flat” is a factual statement, not an opinion. It’s a wrongfact, but it’s a factual statement. By contrast, “The earth looks flat” would be an opinion statement. Can you tell the difference? What the earth looks like — what anything looks like — is a subjective piece of information, even if almost everybody can agree on it. Yes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anybody who prefers guacamole once it’s turned brown. That doesn’t make “Guacamole tastes better when it’s fresh” any less of an opinion.
Want a sample of some facts versus opinions? Here are the 10 statements the Pew Research Center test asks you to judge as either being a factual or an opinion statement. Take a look, then follow the link above to find out how you scored.
- President Barack Obama was born in the United States.
- Abortion should be legal in most cases.
- Immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have some rights under the Constitution.
- Health care costs per person in the U.S. are the highest in the developed world.
- Democracy is the greatest form of government.
- Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient.
- ISIS lost a significant portion of its territory in Iraq and Syria in 2017.
- Spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. federal budget.
- Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour is essential for the health of the U.S. economy.
- Immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally are a very big problem for the country today.
So how did you do? If you managed to get a 10 out of 10, then chances are you’re between the ages of 18 and 49. The results of the survey showed that a full 32 percent of adults in that demographic identified all five factual statements correctly, and 44 percent — nearly half — were right about all of the opinions. By contrast, only 20 percent of the 50+ set got all of the factual statements right, and 26 percent of them answered the opinion questions correctly.
Much of the demographic information that came from the study was somewhat predictable, but we found some of the other patterns rather surprising. Participants who ranked as having high political awareness got all the facts right 36 percent of the time and all of the opinions 44 percent of the time, while those with low awareness aced the tests 17 and 29 percent of the time, respectively. That makes sense. Interestingly, trusting the news was also strongly associated with gauging opinions and facts correctly. So whatever your opinions about the modern news media, there’s at least some hope that watching the news won’t have us all conflating facts and “alternative facts.”