Two new polls demonstrate an ongoing, deepening distrust of the so-called “objective” news media, especially among Republicans.
A new Rasmussen Reports poll published on Thursday found 76 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of voters not affiliated with either major political party believe most reporters are biased against the president, a view shared by only 24 percent of Democrats. Sixty-eight percent of GOP voters and a plurality (45 percent) of unaffiliateds think the media coverage of Trump is poor, but 49 percent of Democrats rate it as good or excellent.”
The skepticism is growing deeper: “Fifty percent think most reporters are biased against the president, up two points from January. Just four percent think most reporters are biased in Trump's favor, a 12-point drop from the previous survey.”
The latest poll from YouGov.com asked the question a slightly different way, that asks about one-sidedness based on the ownership (and possibly advertisers/foundation funders) of media properties.
The question was “Do you think news organizations tend to provide only one side of the story depending on who owns them or funds them?” Here’s how Hoang Nguyen at YouGov reported the answers:
The rise of fake news, a growing multitude of media sources, and an increasingly polarized nation have Americans learning to take their headlines with a grain of salt.
New YouGov research shows that most Americans (70%) agree that news organizations report stories in a light that’s partial to who owns them. It’s interesting to note that the two prevailing political parties perceive media bias to varying degrees. About one in two Democrats (52%) believe that news media is influenced by funding while a drastically greater number of Republicans (85%) hold the same to be true.
They also asked this question: “Do you trust news organizations that have a reputation for objectivity proven by track record?” Republicans shirk the idea of a “reputation for objectivity,” which can easily be read as the “classic brands” of “objective” news, like Associated Press or the Big Three broadcast networks. Nguyen summarized:
Conversely, when asked whether or not one would trust a news source if its track record proved objectivity, 83% of Democrats believe they would, whereas only 58% of Republicans say the same.
Taken in conjunction with the first poll, Republicans and the national population tend to be more skeptical of news organizations, regardless of whether the source has a reputation of being neutral. The percentage point difference in the two surveys reveals that the general public sides more with Republicans than it does with Democrats on the topic of media bias.
It’s nearly impossible to watch the “mainstream” media report on President Trump and believe anyone is trying to demonstrate a “track record” of objectivity. There is no reward inside the media elite for neutrality in the wake of what they see as Hurricane Donald.
YouGov recently conducted a survey that revealed 44% of Americans believe when someone refers to reporting as fake news, it tends to be that s/he doesn’t like what’s being reported more than the fact that it’s untrue. Given that the general population sides more closely with Republican sentiment towards media bias in the above polls, it seems that news organizations have a tough few months of ahead of them if they want more members of the public to accept reporting at face value.
There’s a flaw in that survey: it requires mind-reading. The 44-percent number is asking the public that when “people say” something is Fake News, is it because they don’t like the story? Survey respondents are more generous to the blob of “people.”
However, there’s a very dramatic partisan tilt when they make the question just about the president: “When Donald Trump says something is ‘Fake News,’ do you think he is more likely to say that because (A) he believes the information in the story isn’t true, or (B) he just doesn’t like what is being reported, or (C) not sure?”
The Democrat tilt is 9-87-4 – he doesn’t like real news – and the Republican tilt is 66-23-10 – he’s convinced the press is faking it. It would be more fun if (C) was “he’s tweaking/trolling the press because he knows they hate being called fake.”
The press gets upset at the “fake news” label because they define it very narrowly, like the standard for libel – reporters perpetuating a story they know is a lie. They miss the way Republican voters hear the phrase.
Most importantly in Trump’s tones, “fake” is a denunciation of the Dominant Media Spin, the one that routinely insists Republicans are falling off a cliff, or that the Russia probe is incredibly dire, or implying that Trump won’t last his four-year term. Or that winning all the special elections is actually a bad sign. Facts are regularly manipulated to sound a gloomy note.
In 2016, the Dominant Media Spin was that Trump was so dangerously hateful and reckless that he would lose badly and take a large chunk of Republicans down with him. None of that happened. All the polls insisting he was losing badly ended up being wrong. Or “fake news.”