Pew: 42% of Americans Think 'The Press Is Immoral' and 'Hurt Democracy'

As NewsBusters reported Friday, a new Gallup poll found 60 percent of Americans believe the media are biased.

Another study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center presented even a greater indictment of news organizations finding that 42 percent of those surveyed think "the press is immoral" and "hurt democracy":

The widely-shared belief that news stories are inaccurate cuts to the press’s core mission: Just 25% say that in general news organizations get the facts straight while 66% say stories are often inaccurate. As recently as four years ago, 39% said news organizations mostly get the facts straight and 53% said stories are often inaccurate.

What happened to so change the public's view of the press in just four years?

Might it have been the absolutely dreadful job they did vetting presidential candidate Barack Obama as well as the unprecedentedly biased coverage of him since the moment he tossed his hat into the ring back in February 2007?

Whatever the answer, distrust for news organizations continues to grow.

Another interesting facet of this study was what people think when asked to name a news organization:

When asked what first comes to mind when they think of news organizations, 63% volunteer the name of a cable news outlet, with CNN and Fox News by far the most prevalent in people’s minds. Only about a third (36%) name one of the broadcast networks. Fewer than one-in-five mention local news outlets and only 5% mention a national newspaper such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or USA Today.

When asked to name a news organization 43 percent said CNN, 39 percent said Fox, and everybody else was an also-ran:

Also fascinating:

Since Barack Obama took office, the proportion of Democrats saying that news stories are often inaccurate has risen sharply, and they are now nearly as critical as Republicans.

In 2007, 43% of Democrats and 56% of independents said stories were often inaccurate. Since then, the percentage of Democrats expressing skepticism about the accuracy of news reports has increased by 21 points to 64%, and the percentage of independents saying this has grown by 10 points. Republican views have held fairly steady: 69% see stories as often inaccurate, little changed from four years ago (63%).

Why would the views of Democrats and independents have become more jaded since Obama took office? Is it because even these folks know the sycophantic, adoring coverage of him has been disgraceful?

By two-to-one (62% to 31%), more Americans say that news organizations are politically biased than say they are careful to avoid biased reporting. These views have changed only modestly in recent years. During the mid-1980s, far fewer said news organizations were politically biased; in Pew Research’s first news attitudes survey, 45% said news organizations were politically biased while 36% said they were careful that their reporting was not politically biased.

Yet the most glaring findings:

The public is about evenly divided over whether news organizations are immoral (42%) or moral (38%), but the proportion saying the press is immoral also equals an all-time high. [...]

For the first time in a Pew Research Center survey, as many say that news organizations hurt democracy (42%) as protect democracy (42%). In the mid-1980s, about twice as many said that news organizations protect democracy rather than hurt democracy.

The public also is divided over whether news organizations stand up for America (41%) or are too critical of America (39%). These opinions have changed little in recent years, but in 2002 and 2003 somewhat more said that news organizations stand up for America.

Wow. So 42 percent believe the press is immoral and hurting democracy.

The media should be so proud of themselves.

Media Business
Noel Sheppard's picture