- 84% say news media is "critical" or "very important" to democracy
- 86% think there is at least a fair amount of political bias in news coverage
- Republicans most likely to perceive political bias in news media
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At a time of record political polarization and pessimism about the news media in the U.S., strong majorities of Americans increasingly believe that an independent media is crucial to a functioning democracy, according to a new report from Gallup and the Knight Foundation's Trust, Media and Democracy series. As part of a pattern of eroding confidence in how well the media is serving its role in American democracy, people largely see increasing political bias in news coverage and say the media bears blame for political division in this country. Political party identification continues to be the principal factor driving Americans' views of and trust in the media.
These findings are based on more than 20,000 interviews collected between November 2019 and February 2020 -- before the novel coronavirus led to a global pandemic and protests for racial justice swept the nation -- and update insights from the first sweeping American Views report in 2018. As Americans now turn to news sources for information to make sense of the historic events taking place, the Gallup/Knight study sheds light on how they perceive the media and consume news.
Key Findings From the Biennial Study
The News Media Remains Important to Americans
More than eight in 10 Americans say that, in general, the news media is "critical" (49%) or "very important" (35%) to democracy. Similar high percentages say the same is true of the media providing accurate and fair news reports (92%), ensuring Americans are informed about public affairs (91%) and holding leaders accountable for their actions (85%).
The Media's Roles in Society Are Compromised by Increasing Bias
A majority of Americans currently see "a great deal" (49%) or "a fair amount" (37%) of political bias in news coverage -- more so than in 2017. Although 56% of U.S. adults see at least a fair amount of bias in their go-to news source, they are much more concerned about bias in the news other people are getting (69%) than about their own news being biased (29%).
The Media Is to Blame for Political Division, but Could Heal It Too
More than eight in 10 Americans say the media bears "a great deal" (48%) or "a moderate amount" (36%) of blame for political division in this country. But nearly as many say the media could do "a great deal" (49%) or "a moderate amount" (35%) to heal those divisions.
The Internet Is Exacerbating Problems With the Media
Americans are largely overwhelmed by the sheer volume and speed of news coverage, and 78% say the spread of misinformation online is "a major problem," exceeding all other challenges posed by the media environment. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults would like to see major internet companies find ways to exclude false information or hateful expression online.
Party Affiliation Remains Key Predictor of Attitudes About Media
Seventy-one percent of Republicans but far fewer Democrats (22%) and independents (52%) have an unfavorable opinion of the news media. Across all measures, Republicans express more negative sentiments about the media than do Democrats and independents.
Attitudes Also Differ by Age
Beyond partisanship, age has an independent effect on media attitudes. Older Americans are generally more favorable toward the news media than are their younger counterparts. Whereas 44% of Americans aged 65 and older have favorable views of the media, 19% of those under age 30 say the same.
For more information on Americans' opinions on trust in the media, read the full report.