Study Finds Partisan Beliefs Drive Attitudes Toward News Media

(CN) – Nearly two years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the partisan divide over the media and its role in the American democracy appears to have widened, a new study from the Pew Research Center says.

And the sharpest divide between Republicans and Democrats concerns the role the media plays as watchdog and teller of truth to power.

The Pew Center’s conclusions are based on a survey of 5,035 U.S. adults conducted between February 22 and March 4, 2018.

Eighty-two percent of Democratic respondents said the media’s acting as a self-appointed government watchdog keeps politicians from doing things that they should not do. By comparison, only 38 percent Republicans believe the same thing.

Democrats also were more apt to rely on national news organizations for their information (35 percent), compared to their Republican counterparts (12 percent). More Democrats also described themselves as consumers of local news (37 percent) than Republicans (23 percent).

Interestingly, given the emphasis news organizations place on having a social media-presence, few of the survey participants said they get their news from social media platforms. Only 6 percent of Democrats said they choose to get their news from their social media feeds. And only 3 percent of Republicans do so.

The negative view of social media platforms as sources of news was also reflected in other parts of the survey.

Only 33 percent of respondents — Democrats and Republicans — said they consider news they see on social media to be even somewhat trustworthy.

An overwhelming majority of respondents (82 percent) said they trust local news above all other sources, while 71 percent say they also trust national news and their families as sources of information.

Despite this, 86 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats said they believe national news organizations skew to one side or the other of the political spectrum in their reports.

Similarly, a 68-percent majority indicated that news sources try to “cover up their mistakes” when reporting errors are made, which suggested further erosion of trust in the news. Stratified by party, 48 percent of Democrats said that news organizations would admit an error, whereas only 12 percent of Republicans said the same.

Only one-quarter of Republicans felt that “news organizations understand people like them,” and only 42 percent felt “connected to their main source of national news,” whereas majorities of Democrats felt understood and connected to news sources at 58 percent and 54 percent, respectively.

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