Accuracy in Media

Young people are deeply distrustful of the mainstream media, according to a new College Pulse study funded by and reported on by The Knight Foundation that found that “Nearly half of students (45 percent) report not having much confidence in the media to report the news accurately, while 14 percent say they do not trust the media at all. This reflects a decline in trust from 2017, when half (50 percent) of college students said that they trusted the media to report the news accurately and fairly.”

Just as in the general American population, the study found that conservative college students are far more distrustful of the mainstream media than liberals.

“A majority (58 percent) of college students who identify as Democrat say they have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in the media to be accurate,” Knight reported. “In contrast, only one-third of college students who identify as politically independent report having at least a fair amount of confidence in the media, while only 24 percent of college students who identify as Republican say the same. Nearly half of Republican college students say they do not have much confidence in the media’s accuracy, while 26 percent report having no confidence at all.”

Interestingly, the college student respondents had mixed feelings about freedom of speech. “As college students across the United States continue to test the limits and protections of the First Amendment, a new report by College Pulse reveals that students show support for these rights, but are divided on whether it’s more important to promote an inclusive society that welcomes diverse groups or to protect the extremes of free speech. Opinions sharply diverge by gender, race, sexual orientation, political affiliation and religion … The report showed that more than half (53 percent) of students favor protecting free speech rights, while nearly as many (46 percent) say it’s important to promote an inclusive and welcoming society. At the same time, 58 percent of students said that hate speech should continue to be protected under the First Amendment while 41 percent disagree.”

Counter to the notion that cultural conservatives are rigid and unwelcoming of speech that challenges them, the study found that “A majority of Mormon (81 percent), white evangelical Protestant (71 percent), white mainline Protestant (64 percent), and Catholic students (62 percent) say that protecting free speech is more important than promoting inclusivity. In contrast, a majority of Jewish students (65 percent), students who are members of East Asian religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism (60 percent), and religiously unaffiliated students (54 percent) say that promoting a welcoming, inclusive society is more important.”

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