The news sources that Indians will trust and distrust this poll season

All the trust Indians repose in informal news sources is despite the fact that most had encountered some form of misleading political information in the year prior to the survey. (Image: Pixabay)
All the trust Indians repose in informal news sources is despite the fact that most had encountered some form of misleading political information in the year prior to the survey. (Image: Pixabay)


  • Urban India largely acknowledges that social media is the least trustworthy place to form political views. But many place high trust in the social media handles of the party of their own liking, while dismissing the others as propagandists.

With the Lok Sabha elections looming, social media is set to emerge as a crucial arena for political parties aiming to influence public opinion. A majority of urban Indians, however, consider social media to be the least reliable source for forming political opinions, favouring government sources as the most trustworthy, according to the latest YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey findings. Only 35% of respondents said they had “great" or “moderate" trust in political information sent by friends or family on WhatsApp or other social media, while over 60% placed their trust in government sources and newspapers.

The survey highlighted a correlation between individuals' political allegiances and their preferred news sources, demonstrating how partisan biases shape information consumption. Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) displayed more openness to various information sources, including news channel debates and social media posts. Close to 52% of them had high or moderate trust in news channel debates, while the same was true for 43% of Congress supporters. Notably, a considerable number of BJP followers (40%) were comfortable shaping their political views based on social media content, and 43% were also ready to trust news heard at public places such as markets.

Despite the abundance of information available online and in traditional media, urban Indians repose a high level of trust (59% overall; 65% of BJP supporters; 60% of Congress supporters) in respected or elderly figures in their family or community to form political opinions. Interestingly, the more you earn, the more likely you are to form your views based on unauthenticated sources such as social media messages, or even news heard at marketplaces, the survey found. News channel debates, too, find more trust from high-earners.

The online survey had 12,544 respondents across over 200 cities and towns, and was held in December 2023, aiming to capture the nation's sentiments on a range of topics related to the upcoming elections. Around 84% of the respondents were millennials or younger (44% born after 1996, and 40% between 1981 and 1996). The study, now in its 11th iteration, is a collaboration between Mint, YouGov India, and the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), aiming to examine the aspirations, anxieties and attitudes of India’s digital natives.

Lie detection

All this trust Indians repose in informal news sources is despite the fact that most had encountered some form of misleading political information in the year prior to the survey. Given a list of common types of misinformation, just 15% respondents said they had encountered “none of the above". Around 51% had come across fake news aimed at putting an opponent down and 48% had seen misleading and incomplete news headlines. About 45% had come across old videos or photos used out of context and 39% had encountered quotes misattributed to politicians. Respondents across party lines gave similar responses. Men were significantly more likely to have seen misleading content than women.

But is any particular political side more at fault for this? In line with its high popularity, the BJP had only 26% of the respondents accuse it of spreading propaganda on social media, while 39% said the party uses online platforms to spread awareness. In contrast, the figures were 42% and 23% for Congress. But these views were polarized: trust in one’s favourite party, and little for the opposite side. Among BJP supporters, 58% said Congress uses social media for propaganda, while about 52% of Congress supporters had the same view about BJP. (Around 47% of the respondents identify the most with the BJP, while just 11% side with the Congress, the first part of this series had shown.)

Digital discourse

Just over half of the respondents said they engaged in political discussions on social media actively (“always" or “frequently"), while only 16% said they never did so. Men (58%) were significantly more likely than women (49%) to do this. Millennials were the most active (56%), but other age groups were also avid users. BJP supporters were significantly more likely than others (58%) to engage in online political discussions.

Among those who actively engaged in political discussions online, 40% reported facing recent online harassment or negative interactions related to their political views. Respondents who identify as homosexual, bisexual or asexual were significantly more likely (57%) to report online harassment for their political views than heterosexual respondents (37%). Respondents from marginalized caste groups also reported more online harassment. Muslim respondents who actively engage in political discussions online were more likely (44%) than Hindus who do so (40%).

It’s clear that misleading information and online harassment could again sully the discourse as the election bugle gets shriller online in the coming weeks. But many users may not mind it as long as it’s the opponents’ side that’s on the receiving end, the survey suggests.

This is the third part of a series about the findings of the 11th round of the survey. Note that these surveys are skewed towards urban well-to-do netizens, with 89% respondents falling under the “NCCS-A" socioeconomic category of consumers. Full methodology note and raw data available here.

Part 1: Support for BJP reaches fever pitch; INDIA alliance has few takers: Survey

Part 2: The political hot potatoes on which urban India disagrees with the BJP

Part 4: ‘Revdi’ or genuine welfare? India gives its verdict

Part 5: Indian politics is becoming increasingly partisan. We have the data to prove it.

Part 6: Shades of pessimism ahead of a heated election season

Also read: Marking five years of the millennial survey

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