A recent survey by Sacred Heart University uncovered a deep distrust of the news media and apparent dissatisfaction with the media’s failure to keep up with the times.
Just 24.3 percent of respondents said they believe all or most news media reporting. This was up from 19.6 percent in 2007, but lower than the 27.4 percent recorded in 2003.
Just over half of all respondents, 54 percent, said they believe “some” news media reporting, down slightly from 55.3 percent in 2007. The percentage of those who believe little or no news reporting dropped to 20.4 percent in 2009 from 23.9 percent in 2007.
Researchers speculated that much of the impetus behind this distrust stemmed from the fact that many Americans distrust large corporations and see the news media — most owned by huge conglomerates — as merely the tools of their corporate masters. And that suspicion is reflected in respondents’ perceptions about the media’s impartiality.
In the study, 86.6 percent (87.6 percent in 2007 and 70.3 percent in 2003) strongly and somewhat agreed that the news media manifest political and public-policy positions and seek to influence public opinion.
Researchers suggest that the belief that news organizations pursue political and social agendas is a result of the recent rise in partisan news media. When asked which national television news organization they trusted most for accurate reporting, Fox News was named by 30 percent of all respondents, up from 19.5 percent in 2003 and 27 percent in 2007.
The news organizations ranked as most trusted for accurate reporting included Fox News (30 percent), CNN (19.5 percent), NBC News (7.5 percent) and ABC News (7.5 percent). The least-trusted organizations were Fox News (26.2 percent), followed by NBC News (9.9 percent), MSNBC (9.4 percent), CNN (8.5 percent), CBS News (5.3 percent) and ABC News (3.7 percent).
I have to quote directly from the study results because, well, they’re pretty unbelievable:
Researchers asked respondents for their perceptions of political leanings of various news sources. The Daily Show/Colbert Report was viewed, by a six-to-one margin, as mostly or somewhat liberal over mostly or somewhat conservative. By nearly five-to-one margins, respondents see “news media journalists and broadcasters,” the New York Times and MSNBC as mostly or somewhat liberal over those that see them as mostly or somewhat conservative.
Fox News is viewed as mostly or somewhat conservative over mostly or somewhat liberal by a four-to-one margin. And, by approximately three-to-one margins, CNN and USA Today are viewed as mostly or somewhat liberal over mostly or somewhat conservative. The Wall Street Journal is viewed as more conservative by a two-to-one margin while National Public Radio is viewed as more liberal by the same margin.
Of course, one must wonder about the validity of the study if 15 percent of the respondents thought The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert were “somewhat conservative” and 25 percent thought Fox News is “somewhat liberal.” Where did they find these people?