Poll Finds Media Elite to the Left of Public

The news media elite are to the left of the public in several policy areas related to the war on terrorism, a poll "of opinion leaders and the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations," found. While 56 percent of the public believes "efforts to establish a stable democracy" in Iraq will succeed, 63 percent of the news media elite think it will fail; a plurality of 48 percent of the public think going to war in Iraq was correct, but 71 percent of the news media elite consider it a bad decision; the public is split evenly at 44 percent on whether the Iraq war has helped or hurt the war on terrorism, but an overwhelming 68 percent of the news media elite say it has hurt; and 46 percent of the public believe torture of terrorist suspects is often or sometimes "justified," 78 percent of the news media elite contend it is "rarely" or "never" justified. Plus, news media elite approval of Bush's job performance -- at a lowly 21 percent -- is half that of the public's.

The "America's Place in the World" survey conducted in September and October, and released Thursday, compared public views to those in eight elite groups: Foreign Affairs, Security, State and Local Government, Academic and Think Tank Leaders, Religious, Scientists and Engineers, Military and the News Media.

For the "News Media" sample the poll covered "people from all types of media: newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Various editors (editors, editors of the editorial page, managing editors) and D.C. bureau chiefs were selected from: the top daily newspapers (based on circulation); additional newspapers selected to round out the geographic representation of the sample; news services; and different types of magazines including news, literary, political, and entertainment and cultural magazines.
"For the television sample, people such as D.C. bureau chiefs, news directors or news editors, anchors, news executives, and executive producers were selected from television networks, chains and news services.

"The radio sample included news directors and/or D.C. bureau chiefs at several top radio stations.

"Top columnists listed in the Leadership Directories' News Media Yellow Book and Bacon's Media source were also selected as part of the media subsample."

Some of the findings for the public versus the news media elite:

# "Efforts to establish a stable democracy:"
Will succeed:
Public 56%
Media: 33%

Will fail:
Public: 37%
News media: 63%

# "Decision to take military action" Public:
Public: "right decision" 48%, "wrong decision" 45%
News media: "right decision" 28%, "wrong decision" 71%

# "Iraq's impact on war on terrorism" Public:
Public: "helped" 44%, "hurt" 44%
News media: "helped" 22%, "hurt" 68%

# "Is torture of terrorist suspects justified?" Combining "often" and "sometimes," vs. "rarely" and "never"
Public: 46% yes, 49% no
News media: 21% yes, 78% no

# "Restrictions on student visas" Public:
Public: "worth it to prevent terrorism" 71%, "loses too many good students" 20%
News media: "worth it to prevent terrorism" 39%, "loses too many good students" 56%

# "Reducing illegal immigration" News Media:
News Media: 17% "top priority," 69% "some priority" (86%)
General Public 51% "top priority," 39% "some priority" (90%)

# Bush job approval:
August 2001:
Public: 51%
News media: 40%

October 2005:
Public: 40%
News media: 21%

For the survey results in full: people-press.org

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center