Accuracy in Media

A new study conducted by Gallup and the Knight Foundation finds that Americans’ distrust of the media is growing, with nearly three-quarters of those surveyed saying that the media is “too biased” in its reporting.

The study, American Views 2020: Trust, Media and Democracy, surveyed more than 20,000 U.S. adults and found a deepening pessimism on how the media delivers the news.

  • The vast majority of Americans (84%) say that, in general, the news media is “critical” (49%) or “very important” (35%) to democracy.
  • Americans are more likely today to say the media’s role in democracy is “critical,” up five percentage points since 2017.
  • Large majorities say it is “critical” or “very important” for the news media to provide accurate and fair news reports (92%), ensure Americans are informed about public affairs (91%) and hold leaders accountable for their actions (85%).
  • More Americans say the media is performing poorly rather than well in accomplishing these goals than did in 2017.

At the same time though Americans see an increasing level of bias in the media.

  • A majority of Americans currently see “a great deal” (49%) or “a fair amount” (37%) of political bias in news coverage. The percentage seeing a great deal of bias is up from 45% in 2017.
  • Most Americans see bias in their go-to news source; 20% see “a great deal” and another 36% see “a fair amount” of bias in the news source they rely on most often.
  • Given the choice, however, more Americans say they are concerned about bias in the news other people are getting (69%) than say they worry about their own news being biased (29%).
  • Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they see too much bias in the reporting of news that is supposed to be objective as “a major problem” (73%), up from 65% in the 2017 study.

And they increasingly think that the media is trying to push a specific agenda.

  • Americans perceive inaccurate news to be intentional — either because the reporter is misrepresenting the facts (54%) or making them up entirely (28%).
  • Nearly 8 in 10 Americans (79%) say news organizations they distrust are trying to persuade people to adopt a certain viewpoint, while 12% say they are trying to report the news accurately and fairly but are unable to do so.
  • Eight percent of Americans say distrusted media are trying to ruin the country, driven largely by the 1 in 5 Americans who identify as “very conservative” and 1 in 10 Republicans who feel this way.

Opinions of the media are split along party lines, with 71% of Republicans having a “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable opinion of the news media, compared to 22% of Democrats and 52% of independents.

Other findings in the study include the spread of misinformation online with four in five Americans (78%) saying that it’s  “a major problem,” exceeding all other challenges posed by the media environment.

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