Accuracy in Media

A new poll released last Sunday by Pew Research Center reveals that perceived media bias is alive and well.

The poll found that a full 82% of Americans see bias in news coverage, which is even more astounding when you consider the fact that 17% of Americans say they do not get any news on a usual day. That means that in a country where 83% of residents get news on a regular basis, 82% of residents see bias in reporting. As far as what kind of bias these people see, 43% of those who perceive bias say it is liberal, while only 23% say they see conservative bias.

Almost half of Democrats (47%) say they see a lot of bias in the news; thirty-three percent of Democrats say they see some bias. Among that group, only 36% say that there is conservative bias, while a full 28% say they perceive liberal bias. Fifty-three percent of self-described liberal Democrats say they see bias in the news, with 41% seeing conservative bias and 22% seeing liberal bias.

On the other hand, 62% of Republicans say they see a lot of bias in the media, and 27% say they see some: 11% see conservative bias, and a whopping 69% see liberal bias. Among conservative Republicans, the numbers are far starker: around three-fourths (72%) see a lot of bias in the media. The remaining fourth (21%) say they see some bias—adding up to a full 93% of conservative Republicans who see bias in the media. And while 6% of those conservative Republicans say they see conservative bias, 79% say they see liberal bias. That is almost eight out of ten conservative Republicans.

When you see numbers like those, it’s really no surprise that the proportion of people who say they regularly watch CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC has “slipped substantially” since 2008, as the poll points out.

Yet, while those networks have seen declines in audience size, Fox News noticeably has not. “Only Fox News has maintained its audience size,” the poll states, going on to explain that the proportion of Republicans watching Fox News regularly has increased in the past two years. In addition, the poll mentions, “partisan gaps in media credibility continue to grow.” Republicans are more skeptical than Democrats when it comes to most major news sources—while it’s the opposite when it comes to Fox News.

What is the take-home message here? First, it’s that the vast majority of Americans perceives bias in the news—most of it left-wing bias. And second, it’s that this bias seems to be actively chasing away potential viewers, as we see from the fact that in 2002, Republicans were more likely to watch CNN than they were to watch Fox News, while only eight years later a full 40% of Republicans primarily watch Fox News. This is up from only 18% in 2000.

In a world where online news is stiff competition for both newspapers and TV news, perhaps TV news stations like CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC would do well to eradicate biased reporting. When both their credibility and audiences are shrinking, expunging biased reporters and featuring more objective stories may be the only way they can salvage their stations.

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