Veteran journalist and hard-nosed investigator Sharyl Attkisson is back with a hard-hitting piece on how Americans perceive the news media.
What she found won’t surprise you as it seems that most Americans, including the vast majority of Republicans, don’t have that much faith in our media.
Sharyl: Russia hysteria or top-notch reporting? Coverage of candidate and President Donald Trump has pumped up deep party divides when it comes to attitudes about the news media.
Katerina Matsa: In 2017, we decided to re-ask a number of questions on American’s media attitudes, that we already had asked in 2016.
Sharyl: Katerina Matsa is a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center. In the early days of the Trump Administration, what did you learn about whether Americans feel that news media criticism of political leaders is productive or not productive?
Matsa: That was one of the widest gaps that we saw between Republicans and Democrats.
Historically, Republicans are more likely to see media criticism as a positive thing if there’s a Democrat in the White House and vice versa. But today’s divide is the largest, by far, in the 32 years that Pew has been asking the question.
Nearly 90% of Democrats say news media criticism serves to keep leaders in line. But less than half of Republicans say the same.
Matsa: That was a 47 percent point gap between Republicans and Democrats on that question.
Sharyl: Is that a big difference from past surveys?
Matsa: From 2016, that is a big difference.
In fact, in early 2016, in the middle of presidential primary season, Democrats and Republicans saw eye to eye on this particular question.
At that time, support for the media’s watchdog role was about the same among Democrats and Republicans.
Before now, the biggest gap was under President George W. Bush when Democrats were 28 points more likely than Republicans to appreciate the media as watchdog.
Pew also measured “interest” in national news and found an increase; 33 percent a year ago said they closely followed national news, that’s now up to 40%, but the increase is due almost entirely to Democrats. Their level of interest jumped from 33% to 49%.
And what about bias?
Sharyl: There’s a strong party split when it comes to perceived media fairness. What is it?
Matsa: Yes, and what we found was that Republicans are actually more likely than Democrats to say that news organizations tend to favor one side.
87% of Republicans said news organizations tend to favor one side. Only about half of Democrats said so.
That’s the widest gap between the two parties since the George W. Bush administration in 2007.
Another partisan divide is evident when it comes to “trust” in national news organizations. 34% of Democrats trust the national news, more than triple the percentage of Republicans; again a much larger gap than a year ago.
And finally, although Americans are turning to social media more than ever for information, they claim they trust it the least.
Sharyl: What is the Americans trust or reliance on social media for accurate news?
Matsa: So, it’s 5 percent in 2017.
Sharyl: Just 5 percent?
Matsa: Yes, just 5 percent which, granted the information that Americans get on social media is friends and family, so it’s good to take that into consideration.