Home » MBJ FEATURE » TODD SMITH — Perceptions of news bias on the rise

TODD SMITH — Perceptions of news bias on the rise

TODD SMITH

Americans’ perceptions of news media bias have increased significantly over the past generation.

Thirty-two percent believe the news media are careful to separate fact from opinion, well below the 58 percent who held this view in 1984. Meanwhile, 66 percent currently agree that most news media do not do a good job of letting people know what is fact and what is opinion, up from 42 percent.

These results are based on a new Gallup/Knight Foundation survey on trust, media and democracy. The large-scale mail survey of more than 19,000 U.S. adults was conducted Aug. 4-Oct. 2, 2017. The historical comparisons are based on a 1984 mail survey conducted by MORI Research for the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Additionally, the new Gallup/Knight survey finds nearly half of Americans, 45 percent, saying there is “a great deal” of political bias in news coverage. This represents a sharp increase compared with what other polls have measured on the same question in the past, including 25 percent in a 1989 Pew Research Center telephone survey and 37 percent in that firm’s most recent update, in 2012.

Perceptions of media bias are strongly related to political leanings.

  • Fifty-three percent of Democrats, but only 27 percent of independents and 13 percent of Republicans, believe the media are careful to separate fact from opinion.
  • Twenty-six percent of Democrats versus 67 percent of Republicans perceive a great deal of political bias in news coverage. Independents fall more squarely between Republicans and Democrats on this measure, with 46 percent saying news coverage has a great deal of political bias.

Majorities of Americans consider each of seven possible types of bias evaluated in the survey to be problematic in news coverage today. A high of 69 percent say that news outlet owners attempting to influence the way stories are reported is a major problem, while a low of 57 percent say news organizations reporting information they believed to be accurate but that turned out to be inaccurate is a major problem.

The concerns Americans express about these various forms of bias rival those they have about the spread of inaccurate information on the internet. A separate item found 73 percent of Americans saying the spread of false information over the web is a major problem today.

Majority in U.S. cannot name an objective news source

With perceptions of bias so pervasive, it is perhaps not surprising that less than a majority of Americans, 44 percent, say they can think of a news source that reports the news objectively. Even though Democrats are much less likely to perceive bias in the media than Republicans, Democrats are only somewhat more likely than Republicans to say they can think of an objective news source, 51 percent to 42 percent.

Americans who describe their ideological views as “very liberal,” “liberal” or “very conservative”; have a postgraduate education; or are aged 65 and older are most likely to say they can identify an objective news source. Younger, less educated and moderate respondents are among the major subgroups least likely to say this.

The survey asked those who could name an objective source to identify which specific outlets they believe report news objectively. Among Republicans, Fox News was the overwhelming winner, with 60 percent of Republicans who named an objective news source identifying Fox News as that source.

There is far less agreement among Democrats about which news source is objective. Rather than coalescing around a single news organization, Democrats name a number of sources, led by CNN (21percent) and NPR (15 percent).

Implications

Americans’ perceptions of bias in news reporting have grown and are now a fairly common view, likely explaining the decline in trust in the media in recent decades. Less than half of Americans can identify a single news source they believe reports news objectively.

These trends are troubling for the maintenance of a sustainable, healthy democracy that relies in part on a well-informed citizenry. Americans still widely believe the media have a critical role to play in supporting U.S. democracy. But a concerted effort is necessary to restore their faith in the press to deliver objective news.

See the full Gallup/Knight Foundation report: “Americans’ Views: Trust, Media and Democracy”

Greater access to news makes it harder to stay informed

There are more eye-opening findings about how little Americans trust the current news world to keep them properly informed.

According to “American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy,” a new report from Gallup and the Knight Foundation, while Americans have access to more news sources than ever, they say that expansion has made it harder, not easier, to stay informed. And while people continue to give low marks to traditional news media sources when it comes to objectivity and trust, they’re also souring on the big tech platforms too.

Here are a few notable findings:

  • Americans think the media has an important job, but don’t think that current institutions are doing it well. While the vast majority (84 percent) of Americans say that the media has an important role to pay in democracy, just 33 percent have a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of the news media.

Americans with favorable views towards the news media were also more likely to agree with the idea that more information makes it easier to stay informed, as opposed to harder. Still, 58 percent of Americans said that the proliferation of news sources makes it harder to stay informed. Just half say that there are enough news sources to help them cut through bias, down from 66 percent a generation ago.

  • Unsurprisingly, political polarization is behind a lot of the divergence in Americans views on news media. While 54 percent of Democrats hold a favorable view of the news media, only 15 percent of Republicans do. Compared to Democrats, Republicans were also significantly more likely to identify reporting bias, sensationalism, and ideology as major problem with news media today.
  • Americans on the whole see greater bias in the news than they did in the past. Forty-five percent agreed that there is “a great deal” of political bias in news coverage, which is a significant increase from 1989, where only 25 percent said the same. In a similar vein, less than half of Americans said they could name an objective news source.

Go-lden Mic: Amazon launches cashierless checkout store

Amazon Go has gone!

The powerful retail visionary’s cashierless convenience store has officially opened its first store in Seattle following a nearly 14-month trial run for the Seattle company’s employees.

Now, customers can simply scan their smartphone on the way in, and technology tracks them with cameras and other sensors as they browse. When they take an item off the shelf, Amazon Go adds it to a virtual cart. Groceries are charged to the customer’s Amazon account when they leave with their goods.

Amazon Go is among the boldest efforts by the online retailer to reshape brick-and-mortar shopping. For a pocketsize, 1,800-square-foot convenience store that hasn’t technically opened to the public, the concept has had an outsized influence on the retail industry since its surprise unveiling in December 2016.

This is just another example of how this enterprising retail innovator continues to advance its brand in a rapidly changing – and disruptive marketplace. For that, Amazon takes the Go-lden Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.

BEFORE YOU GO…

… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.

If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.

Click for more info

About For the MBJ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*