MediaWatch: April 1997

Vol. Eleven No. 4

Media Reputation Slides

The public is increasingly rejecting the media and a close look at a recent poll shows liberal bias is a key factor.

Of those polled for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 67 percent said that "In dealing with political and social issues" news organizations "tend to favor one side." That's up 14 points from 53 percent who gave that answer in 1985. Those who think the media "deal fairly with all sides" fell from 34 percent to 27 percent. Republicans, Pew discovered, "are more likely to say news organizations favor one side than are Democrats or independents (77 percent vs. 58 percent and 69 percent, respectively)."

Over the same time period the percentage who felt "news organizations get the facts straight" fell from 55 percent to 37 percent while the ratio of news consumers who believed news stories "are often inaccurate" soared from 34 percent to 56 percent.

Which side do reporters favor? Asked whether the "news media helps society to solve its problems" or whether "the news media gets in the way of society solving its problems," 57 percent chose the latter. Of those, when asked why they were dissatisfied, 25 percent pointed to sensationalism, but 23 percent responded with variations of what Pew categorized as Abiased/liberal/slanted/one-sided reporting/offer their own opinions and views." Another nine percent said reporters "distort the facts." None cited a conservative bias.

Public displeasure has driven people away from the mainstream media, the survey released March 21 found. The percent who said they "enjoy watching TV news a great deal" plummeted from 42 percent in 1985 to 26 percent this year. Those who "look forward to reading the paper very much" dropped from a statistically identical margin, from 42 percent to 27 percent.

Of respondents with an unfavorable view of network TV news, 50 percent couldn't give a reason for their dissatisfaction, leaving "news is biased" as the most cited reason at 14 percent. Another seven percent listed "give opinions not facts," and three percent gave "too liberal" as their response. Those three reasons totaled 24 percent while conservative bias didn't make the list.