Amsterdam/the Hague, 5 July 2018 – Over half of all Dutch civil servants think that fake news makes their job more difficult. Furthermore, they feel that their organisation offers them too little support in identifying disinformation, while they urgently require it. These are the findings of the survey held among 665 civil servants, which was jointly organised by I&O Research and Omnicom Public Relations Group (OPRG).

Rebut or ignore?

The survey findings reveal that civil servants consider disinformation a problem. Not only does fake news make their job more difficult, but two thirds of respondents also feel that politicians should take less notice of attention to fake news. This may be due to the fact that civil servants would otherwise have less time to attend to their normal duties. Moreover, only a third of the respondents felt they were capable of clearly distinguishing genuine news from fake. Civil servants nevertheless hold varying opinions on the way that disinformation should be dealt with. 41% indicated that it is better to rebut fake news, while 37% felt that simply ignoring it is the best strategy.

Little support within government

Civil servants receive little support in dealing with disinformation. A quarter of all civil servants said that no attention whatsoever was devoted to disinformation within their organisation, while 21% were not quite sure whether this was actually the case. When asked to list the ways in which attention is devoted to this topic, a remarkably large number of civil servants (74%) quoted personal conversations between colleagues themselves, while the organisation itself provides rather limited information in this regard (15% listed protocols, 6% training courses, and a further 15% ‘other’).

They do feel the need for the organisation to devote attention to the issue: 43% want to see (far) more attention devoted to the ways in which they might deal with fake news and disinformation. A paltry 3% feel that (far) less attention should be devoted to the issue.

Reliability is determined by the sender

One of the main ways of establishing the reliability of information is to assess the sender: 58% of civil servants indicated that credibility depends very much on the organisation or institution that is the source of the information. Almost half (49%) would appreciate it if information were assessed from various perspectives, while 38% consider it important that the source is clearly stated.

In terms of the reliability of sources of information, scientific publications, reports by (semi-)government bodies (such as CBS [Statistics Netherlands] or SCP [Social and Cultural Planning Office]) and news items in trade publications were awarded the highest scores – 86%, 82% and 75% were assessed as being (highly) reliable. These sources were closely followed by news reports by public service broadcasters (72%), national newspapers (66%) and regional newspapers (54%). Traditional media are also considered more reliable than social media, the reliability of which did not exceed 14%.

About the survey

I&O Research and OPRG joined forces to avoid becoming entangled in everyday humdrum matters and ensure that discussion of the issue was based on fact.

In early 2018 we carried out a survey into the impact of disinformation among 665 civil servants and a further 1193 Dutch citizens (as a control group). The civil servants taking part represent a broad cross section of the staff of government bodies: they are employed at ministries, provincial and municipal authorities, where they perform various advisory, policy-related and executive roles.

I&O Research is an agency that performs policy-oriented research with a view to assisting government bodies in making more informed decisions. Omnicom Public Relations Group (OPRG) contributes to the dialogue between clients (including companies and public interest groups) and society, and ensures that its clients’ information is shared with government bodies, the general public and other stakeholders. In addition to the social interest aspect, it is also relevant to our own organisations to ensure that information does not lose its value due to the existence and dissemination of disinformation.

Download the full research here (in Dutch)

I&O Research

I&O Research is an independent, socially committed research agency with experience and expertise in the public sector. Our down-to-earth, thorough and result-oriented approach appeals to a rapidly expanding client base. With seventy researchers, analysts and advisors, I&O Research is one of the largest research agencies serving the public sector in the Netherlands. With offices in Amsterdam and Enschede, I&O Research is firmly placed at the heart of society.

Omnicom Public Relations Group

Omnicom Public Relations Group The Netherlands is a full service communications consultancy that works for companies, government institutions and non-profit organizations. We are a collective of the three world-leading public relations & public affairs agencies: FleishmanHillard, Ketchum and Porter Novelli. In the Netherlands we work with almost 50 talented PR and communication consultants from Amsterdam and The Hague, with a strong innovative focus and a collaborative corporate culture.

Find out more
For more information about the research and the results, or to arrange a talk with one of our communication experts, please contact [email protected].