Building off the findings from their recent American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy report, Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation conducted a follow-up survey to probe more deeply into Americans' views of bias, inaccuracy and misinformation in news reporting.
The web survey of 1,440 Gallup Panel members sought to quantify exactly how much problematic information people believe they encounter in traditional news media as well as on social media.
Overall, U.S. adults estimate that 62% of the news they read in newspapers, see on television or hear on the radio is biased. They think the news media mostly provide accurate information, but still estimate that 44% of what they see is inaccurate. And they believe that more than a third of the news they see in these channels is misinformation -- false or inaccurate information that is presented as if it were true.
Americans are even more critical of the news they see on social media. They believe 80% of it is biased, 64% is inaccurate and 65% is misinformation.
Republicans, not surprisingly given their much more negative opinions of the news media, perceive much more bias, inaccuracy and misinformation in newspapers, on TV and on radio than Democrats do. There are smaller party gaps in estimates of problematic information on social media since both party groups perceive a lot of biased, inaccurate and false information on those platforms.
In fact, Republicans see most major news organizations as biased. Of 17 major newspapers, network or cable news stations, or internet news sites evaluated in the survey, Republicans see all but two -- Fox News and The Wall Street Journal -- as biased. And Republicans were about evenly divided as to whether Fox and The Wall Street Journal are biased or unbiased.
Republicans also see most news organizations as inaccurate rather than accurate, with Fox being a notable exception. In contrast, Democrats think all of the major news organizations, other than Fox and Breitbart News, are accurate. Democrats believe more news outlets are biased than inaccurate.
For more detail on the bias and accuracy results, read the full report.
The American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy report found consensus among Americans that the spread of misinformation on the internet was a major problem for U.S. democracy. Major internet sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter have been criticized for their role in the spread of misinformation on the internet. Seventy-six percent of U.S. adults believe major internet companies have an obligation to alert their users when they are certain a story being shared on their platform contains misinformation.
Americans tend to believe various methods to counteract the spread of misinformation can be at least somewhat effective. These include giving greater prominence in internet website "news feeds" to stories from reputable news sources, providing links to stories from other news organizations on the same topic, and showing readers ratings of news organizations' trustworthiness compiled by experts. Those who have positive views of the news media are more optimistic that these approaches to countering misinformation will be effective than are those who have negative views of the news media.
When they think they encounter misinformation in news reports and are uncertain about the facts, Americans say they are most likely to turn to the news sources they use most often, internet searches and fact-checking sites.
For more details on the misinformation results, read the full report.
Gallup and Knight Foundation acknowledge support for this research provided by the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.