By Record Margin, Public Sees Media as 'Politically Biased'

Two polls released Thursday show the public now sees the media as liberal, biased, inaccurate, untrustworthy, harmful to democracy and even immoral.

A poll of 1501 adults conducted by the Pew Research Center found a record high 63% said the media were 'politically biased in their reporting,' vs. just 25% who felt reporters were 'careful that their reporting was not politically biased.'

And a Gallup poll of 1017 adults found the public detected liberal bias by a nearly three-to-one margin: 'The majority of Americans (60%) also continue to perceive bias, with 47% saying the media are too liberal and 13% saying they are too conservative.'

Those results are fairly similar to what Gallup found when it asked the same question in 2010 — at that time, 48% said the media tilted in favor of liberals, vs. 15% who saw a pro-conservative bias. Over the past decade, the percentage seeing the media as having a liberal bias has stayed in a consistent range, between 44% and 48% of the public. (See chart.)

This year, Gallup also found 55% expressing 'little or no trust' in the press, compared to a record-high 57% who felt that way in 2010.

Pew's survey contained other bad news for the press: 'Just 25% say that in general news organizations get the facts straight, while 66% say stories are often inaccurate. As recently as four years ago, 39% said news organizations mostly get the facts straight and 53% said stories are often inaccurate.'

Pew found a broad erosion in the public view of the media's fairness and even their morality:

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has been tracking views of press performance since 1985, and the overall ratings remain quite negative. Fully 66% say news stories often are inaccurate, 77% think that news organizations tend to favor one side, and 80% say news organizations are often influenced by powerful people and organizations....

The public is about evenly divided over whether news organizations are immoral (42%) or moral (38%), but the proportion saying the press is immoral also equals an all-time high....

In the Pew Research Center's first survey on news attitudes in 1985, majorities said that news organizations were often influenced by powerful people and organizations (53%) and tended to favor one side (53%). However, by a 55% to 34% margin, more Americans said that news organizations get the facts straight than said their stories were often inaccurate.

Opinions of news organizations in all three areas have grown more negative since then. And since 2007, there have been increases in the percentages saying that news stories are often inaccurate (from 53% to 66%), that news organizations are often influenced by the powerful (from 69% to 80%), and that news organizations tend to favor one side (from 66% to 77%)....

For the first time in a Pew Research Center survey, as many say that news organizations hurt democracy (42%) as protect democracy (42%). In the mid-1980s, about twice as many said that news organizations protect democracy rather than hurt democracy.

For much more information on how the public views the media, and the views of those who work in the media elite, visit MRC's 'Media Bias 101' page.

— Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.