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Media Faulted by Both Sides for Coverage of Trump

Media Faulted by Both Sides for Coverage of Trump

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 37% say media not tough enough on Trump, up from 28% in January
  • 32% now say media is too tough on Trump, while 24% call it about right
  • Nearly three in four closely following Trump-media conflicts in the news

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a shift from January, slightly more U.S. adults believe the news media has not been tough enough (37%) in its coverage of President Donald Trump as say it has been too tough (32%). Shortly after Trump was inaugurated, these sentiments were reversed: 36% thought the media was too tough on him and his administration, and 28% said it was not tough enough.

Heightened Percentage in U.S. Say News Media Is Not Tough Enough on Donald Trump
In its coverage of Donald Trump and his administration so far, do you think the news media has been too tough, about right or not tough enough?
Too tough About right Not tough enough No opinion
% % % %
Mar 9-29, 2017 32 24 37 6
Jan 30-31, 2017 36 31 28 5

Only about one in four Americans, down from 31% in January, now believe the media's coverage of Trump is about right.

As expected, there are strong partisan differences in these views. Most Republicans (64%) say the media has been too tough on Trump, whereas nearly as many Democrats (59%) say it has not been tough enough. However, both numbers are less favorable toward Trump than in January, when more Republicans than today (74%) thought the press was being too hard on him and fewer Democrats (49%) thought it wasn't being hard enough.

Underscoring the difficulty the media has pleasing either side, just 21% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats say its coverage of Trump has been about right. Relatively few independents also think the coverage is appropriate, while the remainder are about evenly divided between saying the media has been too hard or too easy on Trump.

Republicans and Democrats Have Different Perceptions of News Media's Coverage of Donald Trump
In its coverage of Donald Trump and his administration so far, do you think the news media has been too tough, about right or not tough enough?
Republicans Independents Democrats
% % %
Mar 9-29, 2017
Too tough 64 34 9
About right 21 23 27
Not tough enough 9 37 59
Jan 30-31, 2017
Too tough 74 37 9
About right 17 31 40
Not tough enough 6 26 49

The latest results are based on a Gallup survey conducted March 9-29.

A different question in the poll yields a similar divide in Americans' reaction to the Trump-media conflict, but with a bit more detail. By 37% to 33%, Americans are slightly more likely to side with the media than with Trump in the ongoing disagreements between the two. However, less than half of each group "strongly" favors its chosen side. As a result, just 17% of all adults strongly side with the media, and 13% strongly side with Trump.

This leaves 40% feeling more moderately sympathetic toward either Trump or the media. And when factoring in those who favor neither side or who have no opinion on the matter, 71% of Americans appear somewhat uncommitted on the matter.

More Lean Toward the Media Than Trump in Their Disputes, but Most Don't Feel Strongly

Regardless of how U.S. adults feel about the Trump-media battle, most have taken notice. About four in 10 say they are following the news about the ongoing disagreements very closely. Another 35% have followed these disagreements somewhat closely, while about a quarter say they have followed them not too closely or not at all.

The combined 73% paying close attention to Trump and the media's disagreements in the news is significantly above the average 60% that have paid close attention to over 200 major news stories Gallup has tested since 1991.

Democrats Paying Closer Attention Than Republicans to News About Trump-Media Conflict
How closely have you been following the news about ongoing disagreements between Donald Trump and the news media -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely or not at all?
Very closely Somewhat closely Not too closely Not at all No opinion
% % % % %
U.S. adults 38 35 18 8 1
Republicans 34 39 18 8 --
Independents 34 40 18 8 --
Democrats 49 29 16 6 1
Gallup, March 9-29, 2017

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they are following the news about Trump and the media very closely. While this could mean Democrats think the clashes are more important than Republicans do, it could also be that the media's reporting on the disagreements is fairly critical of Trump and therefore garners more attention from Democrats.

Bottom Line

When running for president in 2016, Trump waged a parallel campaign against the news media, accusing it of being biased and purveying "fake news." Trump has only leaned into this theme since becoming president, at times calling the press "dishonest," "out of control" and "the enemy of the people" over what he considers hostile coverage of his administration.

Trump did not invent the idea that the media is flawed -- since 2000 a majority of Americans have thought that press reports are "often inaccurate." However, a growing percentage thinks the media is biased and that it favors the Democrats.

Still, rather than Trump's jabs at various reporters and news organizations convincing Americans that the media is too tough on him, more Americans than in January now believe the press is not being tough enough on Trump. As a result, the percentage saying the media's coverage is on target has fallen to 24%. Yet, relatively few Americans strongly side with either Trump or the press. The vast majority express a more lukewarm allegiance or side with neither, suggesting the discord is producing no real winner.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 9-29, 2017, with a random sample of 789 adults aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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