U.S. democracy faces, a number of threats and challenges, but, the most serious one is “disinformation,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.
The Minnesotan politician shared his views with this year’s journalist fellows of the World Press Institute on a variety of issues that concern the U.S. political system. During the meeting held in his office, Simon expressed his confidence in American democracy, saying: “American democracy, despite having been dented over the last few years, will overcome today’s challenges and will survive.”
Misinformation is eroding the public’s confidence in democracy in the United States. In conjunction with the circulation of claims of election fraud and misinformation throughout the country, the public’s trust in the democratic system has visibly declined, according to major polls.
In 2022, an ABC News/Washington Post survey found that only 20% of the public is very confident in the country’s elections.
Many people in the United States and abroad believe American democracy is facing major threats to the extent that some even claim it is “dying,” especially following Donald Trump’s presidency.
An NPR survey conducted last year found that 64% of the American population believes that U.S. democracy is in crisis and is at risk of failing.
President Joe Biden has also warned several times that American democracy was under attack because of Trump and his supporters.
For Simon, “the number one challenge right now to American democracy is this cloud of disinformation.”
Disinformation is when people “spread false information about what the system is, not what it should be,” he said.
According to Simon, some political actors have been spreading disinformation in the pursuit of their own political and/or economic ends, and this has had a corrosive effect on democracy and “our-well-earned confidence in the system,” he said.
Furthermore, consequences of widespread disinformation can be serious, as the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol demonstrated, which many attribute to Trump’s “Big Lie” about the presidential election results being fraudulent.
Despite the erosion, Simon said there is reason to be optimistic, because there are several ways to confront the challenge of disinformation, including to “always speak the truth.”
“I am not suggesting, when we see someone peddling disinformation, all we have to do is to say what the truth is and then disinformation will just go away,” he added. “Of course not. (But) saying the truth will certainly have a real impact.”