Global Clamor for Unbiased News Has Mixed Results, Poll Finds

MANHATTAN (CN) – In its first-ever survey of global attitudes toward the press, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday that citizens of 38 nations pine for unbiased news – and they do not always find it.

More than 41,000 people scattered across six continents agree – by a margin of 75 percent to 20 percent – that it is “never acceptable” for a news organization to favor one political party over another.

Just 52 percent told the pollster, however, that their news outlets have been meeting this challenge. Another 44 percent said the outlets have not been doing this job well.

“Publics around the world overwhelmingly agree that the news media should be unbiased in their coverage of political issues,” the 55-page report states. “Yet, when asked how their news media are doing on reporting different political issues fairly, people are far more mixed in their sentiments, with many saying their media do not deliver.”

Among other sometimes surprising results, Pew’s data show broad media satisfaction both in countries that are renowned for their free and vibrant press and among those that persecute journalists who cower under the heavy thumb of state control.

In the United States, where President Donald Trump exploits antagonism toward the press for political gain, only 47 percent of the 1,505 people polled believed reporters here cover political issues fairly.

This stands in sharp contrast to countries like Vietnam, where 78 percent of 1,000 respondents said the same thing under a media almost entirely under the rigid control of the nation’s ruling Communist Party.

Turkey, which leads the world in jailing journalists, also inspired more trust in the press than the land of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and the First Amendment. Pew found that 57 percent of Turks told the organization their national press covered political issues fairly, and 73 percent trusted news that relates to government leaders and officials.

Pollsters could not reach several inaccessible areas of Turkey where citizens are likely to distrust the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party, including Kars, on the Turkish side of the Armenian border, and in Hakkari and Batman, in the Kurdish southeastern region of the country.

But high levels of trust in the news media were also reported in countries with strong records for press freedom such as Canada and the Netherlands – ranging from more than 70 and 80 percent in various categories.

Pew’s associate director Katerina Eva Matsa, one of the study’s four authors, confirmed in a phone interview that an unfettered press was no indicator that a country’s reporters would be warmly received.

“We did look into press freedom indices, and we didn’t see any connection,” she said.

But Masta said that Pew found a strong correlation between trust in government and the confidence in the fourth estate.

“The strongest relationship that we did see was the trust in government measure,” she said.

Pew has been conducting its Global Attitudes Survey since 2014.

Today’s poll marks the first time this survey measured attitudes toward the press.

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