That the mainstream media is suffering from a credibility crisis is not news. The issues people have in trusting supposedly objective news outlets to deliver straight-news reporting free from political biases go back at least three decades.
But a new major poll from Gallup and the Knight Foundation gives a more in-depth look at just how bad people believe media bias is and who those polled believe is most responsible for the political division in this country. Hint: it’s not politicians:
The poll noted an increase in the percentage of Americans who see too much bias in ostensibly objective reporting as a “major problem.” According to the poll, 73 percent of Americans share that belief, up from 65 percent in 2017.
Meanwhile, a stunning 84 percent of Americans agree that “the media is to blame for political division in this country,” though the same percentage also believe the media “can serve as a healing force.”
In perhaps the most stunning findings, almost 80 percent of Americans say news organizations they don’t trust are “trying to persuade people to adopt a certain viewpoint” while just 12 percent say media outlets are trying to report “accurately and fairly but are unable to do so.” Nearly three-quarters of those polled (74 percent) are worried that the owners of media companies are “influencing coverage.”
More than half of Americans polled (54 percent) say they believe reporters are “misrepresenting the facts” and another 28 percent believe reporters are “making [facts] up entirely.” More than three-quarters (78 percent) of Americans believe “misinformation” that is shared on social media is “the leading problem with news today.”
Beyond the devastating (for the media) findings that an overwhelming majority view them as biased and largely responsible for political divisions, what’s especially interesting is the that this is not just some fly by night poll of 300-1000 participants. This survey was conducted between November 2019 and February 2020, when over 20,000 participants were interviewed.
The good news for the media here is that “the vast majority of Americans (84%) say that, in general, the news media is ‘critical’ (49%) or ‘very important’ (35%) to democracy.” The bad news is that until they decide to start delivering the news down the line while allowing viewers and readers to form their own opinions, the distrust in their reporting will only increase and people will continue to seek alternative options for news from sources they find more trustworthy.
The mainstream media as a whole – especially the political news media in and around the DC/NYC/Beltway area – has two options: They can straighten up their acts and stop insulting the intelligence of their audiences or they can continue to show their (mostly left-wing) partisan stripes and turn audiences off.
If recent history is any indication, however, they’ll be going with option two – because they’ve shown over and over again that when it comes to demonstrating a commitment to objective reporting versus pushing biased political angles that help Democrats, they will choose those biased political angles nearly every time.