A new report from Gallup and Knight Foundation finds a widening gap between what Americans expect from the news media and what they think they are getting. While Americans increasingly value the media’s role in our democracy, they are losing confidence in the idea of an objective media as perceptions of bias grow.
The findings were released today in “American Views 2020: Trust, Media and Democracy,” a landmark survey of 20,000 Americans that is part of the Gallup/Knight series on the evolution of Americans’ relationship with the news. The report is available at kf.org/usviews20.
The report’s major findings include the following:
Americans think the media is vital for democracy. The vast majority of Americans (84%) say that the news media is “critical” (49%) or “very important” (35%) to provide accurate information and hold the powerful accountable.
Half (49%) of all Americans think the media is very biased. Fifty-six percent say their own news sources are biased, and seven in 10 are concerned about bias in the news others are getting. Eight percent — driven largely by conservatives — say distrusted media are trying to ruin the country.
Americans think the media is pushing an agenda. Three in four people (74%) worry that owners of media companies are influencing coverage, up five points since 2017. They also suspect that inaccuracies in reporting are purposeful, with 54% believing that reporters misrepresent the facts, and 28% believing reporters make them up entirely.
Distrust of the media cuts along partisan lines. Seventy-five percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of the media, and 61% say attacks on the media are justified. But only 22% of Democrats have an unfavorable view, and 70% say that attacks are not justified.