Amid the barrage of “fake news” claims and allegations of media bias has come a new poll that shows the profound impact that political debate and dysfunction are having on Americans, particularly when it comes to trust in media.
A newly released Pew Research Center analysis found that Democrats and Republicans “now disagree more than ever” on “the news media’s role in society.” Traditionally, the media have collectively been viewed as the “Fourth Estate” — a press body that is meant to hold public officials accountable.
But Pew found some truly concerning division along partisan lines when it comes to assessments over “whether news organizations’ criticism of political leaders primarily keeps them from doing things they shouldn’t – or keeps them from doing their job.”
Let’s take a quick dive into the numbers. According to a scientific, online poll conducted from March 12-27, 2017, 89 percent of Democrats believe that media criticism keeps political leaders in line. That’s an assessment that comports with the traditional understanding of the medias’ role in society.
The proportion among Republicans came in shockingly low at just 42 percent, yielding a 47-percentage-point gap between individuals in the two parties, according to Pew.
Here’s why this matters: these proportions have dramatically shifted over the past year amid almost ceaseless claims of liberal media bias that have surely impacted conservatives’ views of the press. When the same question was asked in February 2016, 74 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans supported the idea that the media are essentially a watchdog.
“Pew Research Center has asked this question since 1985,” the report explains. “While Republicans have been more likely to support a watchdog role during Democratic presidencies and vice versa, the distance between the parties has never approached the 47-point gap that exists today.”
The media doesn’t fare too well in other measures either, with just 34 percent of Democrats and 11 percent of Republicans saying that “information from national news organizations is very trustworthy.”
Another major gap between Democrats and Republicans came when Pew asked if “news organizations tend to favor one side,” with just 53 percent of Democrats agreeing and a stunning 87 percent of Republicans feeling the same. Overall, 72 percent of Americans believe that the media tend to favor one side while covering political and social issues.
As Faithwire previously reported, another Pew Research Center poll recently found that the majority of Americans — 73 percent — believe that the tensions between Trump and the press are “getting in the way of access to important national political news and information,” with 72 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Independents all agreeing.
The issues surrounding Trump and his battle with the press have been complex. Yet another poll from Quinnipiac University back in February offered a unique lens into the public’s view of the spat.
On one side, the poll found that 50 percent of the voters disapprove of the way the media have covered Trump, with 45 percent rejecting this sentiment. But despite half disliking the coverage, the public isn’t necessarily on board with Trump’s rhetoric, either, as 61 percent of voters disapprove of the ways in which he has talked about the media.
Perhaps the most damning finding came when individuals were asked, “Who do you trust more to tell you the truth about important issues: President Trump or the news media?” In the end, journalists trumped the commander-in-chief, with 52 percent selecting the media and with 37 percent choosing the president.
A Fox News poll conducted earlier found the reverse — that 45 percent selected the administration, while 42 percent said the media are more trustworthy. But that poll was conducted before Trump dubbed the media the “enemy of the American people,” a move the upped the ante on the debate.
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