A study found that over 80% of people perceive the media as biased in both how outlets cover the news and which stories they choose to cover.
“Many Americans feel the media’s critical roles of informing and holding those in power accountable are compromised by increasing bias,” the Gallup/Knight Foundation study’s authors wrote. “As such, Americans have not only lost confidence in the ideal of an objective media, they believe news organizations actively support the partisan divide. At the same time, Americans have not lost sight of the value of news — strong majorities uphold the ideal that the news media is fundamental to a healthy democracy.”
The study was based on polling more than 20,000 U.S. adults between Nov. 8, 2019, and Feb. 16, 2020.
The study found that 83% of people overall perceive the news media are biased, with 46% saying the media have a “great deal” of bias and 37% saying they have a “fair amount” of bias.
Broken down by party affiliation, 77% of Democrats believe the media are biased, with 50% saying there is a “fair amount” of bias and 27% saying a “great deal.” Republicans were more likely to say the media are biased at 91%, with 68% saying the media have a “great deal” of bias and 23% saying they have a “fair amount” of bias. Among independents, 84% believe the media are biased, with 49% responding that media have a “great deal” of bias and 35% saying they have a “fair amount.”
President Trump has been a staunch critic of the media since launching his presidential bid ahead of the 2016 election, sometimes referring to the nation’s most well-known outlets as the “enemy of the people.”
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., seemingly shares that view, picking up on the study on social media and wondering why 17% of the study’s respondents didn’t believe in media bias.
“The other 17% have low single digit IQs… also like the media,” Trump Jr. tweeted in reference to the study.
Despite the negative outlook on media bias, the study found that most people view the news media as “critical” or “very important” to democracy.
“A majority of Americans (81%) say that, in general, the news media is critical (42%) or very important (39%) to democracy,” the study’s authors wrote. “Large majorities of Republicans (74%) and Democrats (90%) share this sentiment, though Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the media is critical.”
In all, 74% agreed with the idea that democracy only works when people stay informed of the news, including 29% who indicated that they “strongly agree.”
“Americans’ views on the media have been negative for quite some time,” the authors said. “Americans perceive much bias in the news media and suspect it intentionally pushes a particular perspective. With a highly fragmented news ecosystem, the public faces real challenges sorting out what is ‘real’ from ‘fake news.’”
But the authors also concluded with optimism about views on the importance of the media.
“However, the future is not hopeless,” the authors wrote. “Americans of all ages and political affiliations continue to see the media as playing a critical role in upholding a healthy and vibrant democracy. And even as Americans believe the media is to blame for the political divide in the country, they largely see a role for the media in healing that divide.”