Mainstream media’s power to influence crumbles as nearly 9 in 10 Americans see high or medium level of bias, new poll shows

Mainstream media’s power to influence crumbles as nearly 9 in 10 Americans see high or medium level of bias, new poll shows

Americans’ trust in the media to report news honestly continues to spiral downward, as 86 percent of respondents in a new Knight Foundation/Gallup poll say they see either “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of political bias.

The ratio of people who see at least a fair amount of bias in the way news is covered has increased by 25 percentage points during the Obama and Trump presidencies, as it stood at 62 percent in 2007, the poll released Tuesday showed. Eighty-four percent of respondents blame the media for political divisions in the country, and 49 percent said news coverage has a great deal of bias.

“Most Americans have lost confidence in the media to deliver the news objectively,” Knight Foundation Senior Vice President Sam Gill said. “This is corrosive for our democracy.”

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The survey of 20,000 Americans also showed that respondents believe the biased and erroneous reporting is by design. Seventy-four percent believe that media company owners are influencing news coverage, while 54 percent said inaccuracies are reported on purpose. Twenty-eight percent said reporters make up their stories entirely.

Supporters of both major political parties – 94 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats – largely agree that there’s at least a fair amount of bias. But Republicans are more bothered by the unbalanced reporting, with 75 percent having an unfavorable view of the media. Only 22 percent of Democrats have an unfavorable view.

Perhaps Democrats were less troubled because the bias leans leftward. A Media Research Center report showed that in the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency, 90 percent of press coverage was negative toward him. But even as media coverage savaged Trump throughout 2018, his approval rating increased by nearly three percentage points, to 42.7 percent. Real Clear Politics pegs Trump’s current average approval rating at 43.4 percent.

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The media continues to trumpet polls showing Biden has a large lead over Trump, just as it was widely predicted that Trump would lose to Hillary Clinton in 2016. But the media’s limited ability to drive Trump’s support lower may be a red flag for news outlets that aim to help get Joe Biden elected in November, just as they favored Clinton in 2016: As public distrust goes, the media’s influence diminishes. When nearly nine in 10 Americans believe the media is significantly biased, that means most people consider the source when news is reported.

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