Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to think that news outlets have been accurate and helpful in their coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
(CN) — Most Americans trust the news media to provide them with accurate and relevant information during the Covid-19 pandemic as misinformation creeps into the mainstream discourse, but that trust is more pronounced among Democrats than Republicans.
In a Pew Research Center survey released Friday, 59% of respondents said they trusted news media to provide them with the information they need, and only 24% felt the opposite. Forty-nine percent said news media are largely accurate, 48% said the media are working for the benefit of the public, and 46% said news outlets are helping the country.
Though more Americans regarded the media positively than not in this survey of 10,139 adults between April 20 and 26, fewer respondents indicated trust and positivity than researchers found in previous surveys.
In 2018, 55% of respondents had at least a fair amount of confidence that news media would act in the public interest, whereas that number shrank to 48% in the latest survey. The drop came primarily from those who had a great deal of confidence, which fell from 15% to 9% in the latest survey. Slightly fewer respondents also indicated their confidence in journalists’ ethical standards than in 2018 as well (45% to 43%).
The slim majorities and pluralities were derived from significant disparities between Democratic and Republican respondents. For example, 73% of Democrats said they trusted the media to provide needed information, whereas only 44% of Republicans said the same. Sixty-six percent of Democrats felt that the media was largely accurate and working in the public’s interest, compared to only 31% and 28% of Republicans, respectively.
Republicans were least likely to say that news media is helping the country at 27%, whereas 63% of Democrats said the same. In fact, majorities of Republicans felt that news media works to benefit their own organizations and are hurting the country at 57% and 54%, respectively. More Republicans also felt the media was inaccurate than accurate at 39% versus 31%.
Further, two-thirds of Republicans felt that Covid-19 coverage has been too negative, compared to just 24% of Democrats who agreed. Inversely, 60% of Democrats felt that coverage was neither too positive nor too negative, while 25% of Republicans felt the same. Only 12% of respondents overall felt that news coverage has been too positive.
Journalists were the least trusted public servants among Republicans at 23%, followed by elected officials at 37%. Republicans were most deferential to the military (92%) and police officers (87%). Elected officials and business leaders were least trusted among Democrats at 37%, and they trusted medical scientists and scientists generally the most at 92% and 91%, respectively.
Though 70% of Democrats said they trusted journalists, they were still more likely to trust college professors (85%), public school officials (87%), the military (76%) and police officers (71%) before the news media. In fact, overall trust in most public servants either stayed the same or rose since 2019, whereas trust in the media fell during the same period.
As people experience the effects of the pandemic in America and across the world, they seek out information in order to protect themselves. Though platforms like Facebook have made efforts to combat misinformation online by adding pop-ups to posts in line with information provided by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conspiracies have nonetheless culminated amid global panic.
For example, vaccine opponents in the U.S. have preemptively rejected any coming Covid-19 vaccine, pushed unapproved treatments and questioned the expertise of medical scientists. Additionally, protests against emergency orders have begun popping up in several parts of the country and state courts argued over the orders’ legal footing in Wisconsin and Michigan.
And while reporters have continued asking President Donald Trump about increased testing capabilities during press briefings and other appearances, he told them Wednesday that “by doing all this testing, we make ourselves look bad.”