A recent study by Jonas Lefevere (Brussels School of Governance, VUB) and Stefaan Walgrave (University of Antwerp) investigated the political views of 2,064 inhabitants of Flanders, Belgium’s largest region. The study, called ‘De Stemming’, is a yearly survey commissioned by the Flemish public broadcaster (VRT NWS) and newspaper De Standaard.
The study finds that most respondents rated ‘Disinformation and Fake news’ as a substantial threat to democracy: 62% scored the threat of disinformation 6.3/10 or higher on a scale from ‘No threat at all (0)’ to ‘A substantial threat (10)’. Moreover, 14% of respondents considered it a very grave threat, giving disinformation the highest possible score. Compared to other potential threats to democracy, disinformation was considered relatively important regardless of respondents’ party preference – although small variations were visible.
Moreover, respondents saw several other important threats to democracy that directly relate to the issue of disinformation, including foreign interference in our elections (average score of 5.2, with 9% of respondents giving it the highest possible score as a threat), and restrictions on free speech (average score of 5.4, with 13% giving the highest possible score). So, citizens consider the issue of disinformation, and the broader debate surrounding limitations on free speech, as important challenges to contemporary democracy.
The EDMO BELUX Project will launch a more in-depth investigation on Belgian and Luxembourgish’ citizens views regarding disinformation in the upcoming months. In the meantime, you can find the full study results containing the ‘Threats to Democracy’ part here.