Poll Finds Americans Believe in Journalism, but Distrust Media

(CN) – Most Americans believe in the role of journalism in a democracy, but are distrustful of current news media and are unable to cite objective news sources, according to a new poll.

A Gallup and Knight Foundation survey released Monday showed that eight out of 10 Americans believe the news media is important in informing the public of current events and holding government officials responsible for their actions.

But only 33 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of news media, compared to 43 percent who view it unfavorably. Trust in mass media has declined since 1976 when 72 percent of Americans, fresh from investigative pieces into the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers, had more regard for journalism.

“There really is consensus that free media is important,” said Sam Gill, Knight’s vice president for communities and impact in an interview with USA Today. “But most people do not believe it is fulfilling its functions.”

The survey found a sharp difference in opinion between political affiliations, as Republicans and Democrats split on their opinion of the news media. Among Democrats, 54 percent regard news media favorably, as opposed to just 15 percent of Republicans.

President Donald Trump has regularly attacked the press, calling reports on his administration “fake news.” He recently tweeted that he planned to give away fake news awards, but has since postponed doing so.

Regardless of political background, 45 percent of those polled said there is a “great deal” of political bias in the news.

Inaccurate information on the internet poses a major concern for 73 percent of those polled. The problem of “fake news” was so rampant during the 2016 presidential election that Facebook and Google had to create new policies to stem the tide of false reporting.

With the rise of smartphones, more Americans are getting their news online. The problem, according to the poll, is that there are too many online sources vying for attention. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents said the vast choice of media makes it more difficult to be informed.

Only 44 percent of Americans said they can think of an objective news source, with 66 percent saying news media doesn’t do a good job of separating news from opinion. This is in sharp contrast from 1982, when only 42 percent said the same thing.

The poll surveyed more than 19,000 American adults and carries a sampling error of plus or minus 1 percent. Calls to Gallup and the Knight Foundation for comment were not returned by press time.

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